China’s biggest messaging app accidentally converts ‘black foreigner’ to the N-word

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China's biggest messaging app accidentally translates 'black foreigner' to the N-word

Image: HOW HWEE YOUNG/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

WeChat, China’s greatest messaging app, has apologised for the gaffe, where it translated the particular phrase “black foreigner” to the N-word.

The mistake was first noticed by Ann James, an American residing in Shanghai. She translated an inbound Chinese message into English, which usually produced the text: “The n****r’s nevertheless late. “

The original Chinese language message used a more neutral phrase, hei laowai, or “black foreigner. “

(Editor’s note: The language within the screenshot below has been obscured because of its offensive nature)   

WeChat rectified the error within 24 hours, but the company told Chinese language outlet Sixth Tone that the interpretation was based on its neural device learning engine, that picked up the phrase from broader usage.

WeChat, which has a huge base of more than 900 million users, has been capable of translate messages in-app since 2014. It relies on a combination of translation resources, including its own AI engine, plus third parties like Microsoft ¨¹bersetzungsprogramm.

The error is similar to other translation engines that have attempted to learn from analysing big data. Within August, two Chinese chatbots � one created by Microsoft � had been taken down after they started posting unpatriotic content about the government.

Last year, another Microsoft chatbot, Tay, was pulled after it began tweeting racist and crude communications.

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