Facebook Apologized For Translating Chinese President's Name Into Mr. Shithole

Aadhya Khatri - Jan 20, 2020


Facebook Apologized For Translating Chinese President's Name Into Mr. Shithole

Facebook has recently issued an official apology to Chinese President Xi Jinping for translating his name into Mr. Shithole during his visit to Myanmar

Facebook has recently issued an official apology to Chinese President Xi Jinping for translating his name into Mr. Shithole during his visit to Myanmar. As stated by the company, the unfortunate incident happens because of a technical issue occurs when the name is translated from Burmese to English on Facebook.

The incident is sensitive and awkward for all the involving parties. Xi Jinping came to Burma to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counselor of the country to ink several construction plans with Chinese backing.

Facebook-xi-jinping-mr-shithole
Xi Jinping came to Burma to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counselor of the country to ink several construction plans with Chinese backing

The awkward moment happened when Suu Kyi posted about the visit on his official Facebook page, meaning the name Xi Jinping appears repeatedly in the post. And as we all know, the social media site later mistook his name and translated it into Mr. Shithole in English.

That is not all, according to Reuters, a local news outlet called The Irrawaddy also has an article with the headline “Dinner honors president shithole.”

Facebook claimed that the issue has been fixed while Reuters reported that Google Translate does not get in the same problem when translating the name of the Chinese president.

In a statement sent to Reuters, Facebook said that the problem should not have happened and it had taken measures to ensure that it would happen again, along with an apology for the trouble it had caused.

Facebook explained that it did not have the translation of the president in Burmese in its database so the system did the only thing available to it, guessing what the name means, and this was when the trouble happened.

Facebook-xi-jinping-translate-mr-shithole
Facebook has recently issued an official apology to Chinese President Xi Jinping for translating his name into Mr. Shithole during his visit to Myanmar

The company has run tests to see why the issue arose and it found out that its tool will translate any word in Burmese that starts with “shi” or “xi” into shithole.

As stated by Kenneth Wong, University of California’s Burmese language instructor in answer to the New York Times, the issue was understandable. The said that the name Xi Jinping of the Chinese sounds pretty similar to “chi kyin phyin,” which can be roughly translated to “feces hole buttocks” in Burma’s language.

The Mr. Shithole issue is a serious hiccup for the relationship of Facebook with China. On one hand, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO claimed that the company would never agree to the conditions it needs to fulfill to be able to operate in China. While on the other hand, Facebook is investing more than ever on its advertising business in the Asian country.

Facebook’s effort in China has brought back massive profit, which amounted to $5 billion in 2018. Earlier this month, the company announced a new engineering team based in Singapore to cater to the needs of users in the country.

Facebook is blocked in China but it can still operate in Hong Kong. Chinese companies and other organizations still find Facebook a handy tool to reach their customers in international markets.

So you can imagine the reactions of Facebook employees when their system translated the name of the most powerful man in China into Mr. Shithole.

However, this is not the first nor the only trouble Facebook’s system causes when translating Burmese words into English. According to Reuters, the site made a similar mistake and turned a post that advocates Muslim killing to “I shouldn’t have a rainbow in Myanmar.”

So it is about time Facebook fixed whatever flaw that causes the issue because it has just messed with someone it should not touch.

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