IT happens: Facebook sorry for China leader Xi Jinping’s name gaffe, Latest World News - The New Paper

IT happens: Facebook sorry for China leader Xi Jinping’s name gaffe

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YANGON Facebook on Saturday blamed a technical error for Chinese leader Xi Jinping's name appearing as "Mr S***hole" in posts on its platform when translated into English from Burmese, apologising for any offence caused.

The error came to light on the second day of a visit by the President to the South-east Asian country, where Mr Xi and state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi signed dozens of agreements covering massive Beijing-backed infrastructure plans.

A statement about the visit published on Ms 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 honours president s***hole".

It was not clear how long the issue lasted, but Google's translation function did not show the same error.

"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 apologise for the offence this has caused," Facebook said in a statement.

The Facebook system did not have President Xi Jinping's name in its Burmese database and guessed at the translation, the company said. Translation tests of similar words that start with "xi" and "shi" in Burmese also produced "s***hole", it added.


Facebook is blocked in mainland China. But it is not blocked in Hong Kong, and mainland companies advertise elsewhere on the platform, making China Facebook's biggest country for revenue after the US.

It is setting up a new engineering team to focus specifically on the lucrative Chinese advertising business, Reuters reported.

Facebook has faced numerous problems with translation from Burmese in the past. In 2018, it temporarily removed the function after a Reuters report showed the tool was producing bizarre results.

One example is an anti-Rohingya post advocating killing Muslims that was translated into English as "I shouldn't have a rainbow in Myanmar".