Facebook goofs horribly in calling Chinese president ‘Mr. Shithole’

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Facebook apologised Saturday for a distasteful mistranslation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s name from Burmese language posts during his much-touted visit to Myanmar.

His two-day visit to Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw was the first made by a Chinese leader in almost two decades. But the historic moment was dimmed by the automatic translation feature on Myanmar’s Facebook page — which rendered Xi Jinping’s name from Burmese into English as “Mr Shithole”.

The error most notably appeared on the official Facebook page of Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Mr Shithole, President of China arrives at 4 PM,” said a translated announcement posted earlier Saturday.

“President of China, Mr. Shithole, signed a guest record of the house of representatives,” it continued.

Facebook said it was sorry and blamed a technical glitch.

“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 offense this has caused,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Facebook said it did not have Xi’s name in its Burmese translations data. In cases such as those, Facebook’s system guesses and replaces them with words that have similar syllables.

The company tested similar words in Burmese, and other words that start with “xi” and “shi” in Burmese, which use the same character, were also translated as “shithole,” Facebook said.