News: Machine Translation Strikes Again

November 01, 2017

Machine translation fails typically have comical results, but sometimes the mistakes can have much more serious consequences. Recently, a Palestinian construction worker was mistakenly arrested after posting an image of himself on Facebook next to a bulldozer with the words "good morning" written in Arabic. Israeli police thought he posted the words "hurt them".


The man was arrested on suspicion of incitement after Facebook's automatic translation feature changed the meaning of what he had posted. No Arabic-speaking officer read the post and the officers relied entirely on Facebook's machine translation. There is only a single letter difference between the Arabic phrase "good morning to you all" and "hurt them". He was quickly released when the mistake was discovered.


Facebook told Mashable, "Unfortunately, our translation systems made an error last week that misinterpreted what this individual posted. Even though our translations are getting better each day, mistakes like these might happen from time to time and we've taken steps to address this particular issue. We apologize to him and his family for the mistake and the disruption this caused."


This mishap comes just a couple of months after Facebook announced that all user translation services will now be powered by neural networks, which are a form of artificial intelligence (AI). Facebook's convolution neural network (CNN) evaluates groups of words, rather than looking at words one at a time with the goal of translating them quicker and more accurately.

To read more, please see: Facebook's automatic translate lands Palestinian man in jail.

Further Resources from GPI

You may gain further insight into global e-business, global SEO, website translation, country specific cultural facts and related topics by reviewing some previous blogs written by GPI:



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Peter has over 20 years’ experience in business development within the localization industry supporting clients for documentation, software and website globalization services. He started his career in the translation industry in 1995 and over the years has worked for several leading localization service providers including LMI, Berlitz, Welocalize, GPI and Beyondsoft. Throughout his career Peter has led by example and always put his clients’ needs first to ensure client expectations are understood and successfully met. Over the years Peter has trained extensively in Solution Selling, Action Selling and Localization Sales, Testing and Project Management. Peter handles many of GPI’s global accounts helping educate clients on GPI’s comprehensive suite of globalization services and industry best practices.