Facebook sorry for China leader rude name gaffe

Facebook has apologised for translating Chinese President Xi Jinping’s name from Burmese to English into an obscenity on its platform.

The translation gaffe came to light on the second day of Mr Xi’s state visit to Myanmar.

On Saturday, Mr Xi met Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi to enhance bilateral relations.

In Burmese Facebook posts about their meeting, Mr Xi’s name in English was translated erroneously.

His name appeared as “Mr Shithole” in Facebook posts shared on the official accounts of Ms Suu Kyi and her office.

A Burmese to English translation, which Facebook states was a technical error
A translation error appeared on the official Facebook page of the office for Myanmar’s State Counsellor/REUTERS

Facebook addressed the mishap in a statement on Saturday, blaming a “technical issue” for the mistranslation.

“We fixed a technical issue that caused incorrect translations from Burmese to English on Facebook,” said Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook. “This should not have happened and we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Burmese is the official language in Myanmar, where it is spoken by two-thirds of the population.

Facebook admitted that Mr Xi’s name had not been inputted into the database that translates Burmese into English.

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a bilateral meeting
President Xi visited Myanmar to strengthen bilateral ties with the country/EPA

In instances where data for a word is missing, Facebook’s system guesses the translation, using similar syllables to replace it, the company said.

Translation tests of similar words that start with “xi” and “shi” in Burmese also produced “shithole”, it added.

“We are aware of an issue regarding Burmese to English translations on Facebook, and we’re doing everything we can to fix this as quickly as possible,” Mr Stone added in the statement.

As of Sunday morning, the English translation function did not appear to be working on the Burmese posts of official Facebook pages belonging to Ms Suu Kyi and the Myanmar government.

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There were reports that coverage of the gaffe was censored in China, where the flow of information is controlled by the government.

In Myanmar, President Xi has sought to strengthen political and economic ties with the country.

During the two-day trip, lucrative infrastructure deals were jointly signed by Mr Xi and Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the State Counsellor of Myanmar.

The trip comes a month after Ms Suu Kyi was accused of “silence” over alleged atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar at the International Court of Justice.

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