Facebook, you got some splainin’ to do!
This weekend reports emerged that Facebook has been mistranslating Chinese President Xi Jinping’s name into the words “Mr. S***hole” …
The error was spotted thanks to Aung San Suu Kyi, the state counselor of Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country that’s bordered by China to the northeast and whose people speak Burmese.
Last week, Jinping traveled to Myanmar for a two-day visit “designed to celebrate Beijing’s expanding presence in the region, both as an economic and political role model,” according to The New York Times.
On the second day of his visit, Jinping and Kyi signed a slew of multibillion-dollar infrastructure and trade deals.
China’s Xi Jinping doubled down on his support for fallen rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi, signing dozens of infrastructure and trade deals and meeting with the Myanmar army chief accused of overseeing a genocide against Rohingya Muslimshttps://t.co/X34hmFGoI2 pic.twitter.com/AQA7Wev1pb
— AFP news agency (@AFP) January 19, 2020
Following the momentous signing, Kyi’s staff posted details of the meeting to the Facebook page of the “Myanmar State Counsellor Office.”
There was just one problem, as reported by Poppy McPherson of Reuters.
Umm. Facebook seems to be translating “Xi Jinping” written in Burmese as “Mr Shithole”.
This is a post on Aung San Suu Kyi’s official page, recounting her meeting with him yesterday… h/t @felizysolo
”kingdom of Mr Shithole” pic.twitter.com/B4V2cYjPJw
— Poppy McPherson (@poppymcp) January 18, 2020
“A statement about the visit published on Suu Kyi’s official Facebook page was littered with references to ‘Mr. S***hole’ when translated to English, while a headline in local news journal the Irrawaddy appeared as ‘Dinner honors president s***hole,'” Reuters reported.
Upon learning of the mistranslation, Facebook issued an apology and apparently disabled the “translation function” on the “Myanmar State Counsellor Office” Facebook page.
“We fixed a technical issue that caused incorrect translations from Burmese to English on Facebook. This should not have happened and we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We sincerely apologize for the offense this has caused,” the social media outlet said in a statement.
According to Reuters, Facebook didn’t have Jinping’s name in its Burmese database, so it “guessed” at the translation.
“Translation tests of similar words that start with ‘xi’ and ‘shi’ in Burmese also produced ‘s***hole,'” the outlet reported.
As of Sunday morning, the “translation” function didn’t seem be available on any of the page’s posts:
မြန်မာ – တရုတ် နှစ်နိုင်ငံ တွေ့ဆုံဆွေးနွေးပွဲကျင်းပ နိုင်ငံတော်၏…
နိုင်ငံတော်၏အတိုင်ပင်ခံပုဂ္ဂိုလ် ဒေါ်အောင်ဆန်းစုကြည်နှင့် တရုတ်ပြည်သူ့သမ္မတနိုင်ငံ သမ္မတ မစ္စတာ ရှီကျင့်ဖျင်တို့…
The public has responded to this controversy by making jokes about it, theorizing that the mistranslation was somehow done purposefully or stating that they believe Jinping deserves to be known as “Mr. S***hole.”
Facebook will be the reason for World War 3
— Dex Morgan (@latin_originals) January 19, 2020
That’s bad. As Russel wouldve quipped – sumbaady gonna get hurt real baad.
— Gyan Ban (@Gyanban) January 19, 2020
Maybe @Facebook should look at its employees who may have done it deliberately !!
— Chowkidar Sanny (@sanny2023) January 19, 2020
Facebook knows what he really is ?
— A Man Is No One (@At_Sanath) January 19, 2020
Salute Fb for stating the truth.?
They should not apologize for Speaking truth
— Ajax (@vivekwagh3) January 19, 2020
Why, when it’s true?
— Leena Mudbidri (@leenasez) January 19, 2020
I’d say that’s no too far from reality though ???
— Cookiecream (@ramasind) January 19, 2020
The translation is accurate!
— Simon ? (@SigmaSDQ) January 18, 2020
— AddOilHK??? (@AddOilHkers19) January 18, 2020
The Chinese president has a very shady record. So does his Burmese counterpart.
His administration has been responsible for a slew of human rights abuses in Hong Kong, where protesters have been fighting back — with U.S. President Donald Trump’s blessing, FYI) against his administration’s oppressive rule since last summer.
The Chinese people have themselves also suffered under his regime.
“Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, the space to engage in political speech has shrunk precipitously,” The National Interest notes. “Lawyers are jailed for the crime of practicing the law. Rights defenders are held incommunicado, tortured, forced to make televised confessions, denied medical care, and denied the dignity of a burial and gravesite upon their deaths.”
“Chinese Communist Party ideologues are rewriting the Bible, tearing down churches, and throwing pastors and priests in prison for refusing to put the almighty Xi Jinping above the almighty God. The phrase ‘digital authoritarianism’ has now entered the lexicon, with the Chinese Communist Party exploiting technology to extend its reach into all aspects of daily life.”
Kyi is no better. Two years ago Amnesty International rescinded an Ambassador of Conscience award it’d previously recognized her with.
Sadly, we can no longer justify this honour and today we are withdrawing the award pic.twitter.com/gYenr0HAYg
— Kumi Naidoo (@kuminaidoo) November 12, 2018
“You have chosen to overlook and excuse the brutal oppression and crimes against humanity committed by the military against the Rohingya … and your office has actively shielded the military from international scrutiny and accountability,” Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo wrote at the time.
“We have also been appalled to witness your administration spread hate narratives against minorities, fostering rather than challenging discrimination and hostility.”
That same year, Jinping reportedly removed China’s term limits for the presidency, thus enabling himself to remain president for life.
It’s not clear how he feels about Facebook’s error.
“China’s foreign ministry declined to comment,” Reuters reported.
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