Facebook translates 'good morning' into 'attack them', leading to arrest | Technology | The Guardian
Tue 24 Oct 2017 02:38:26 PM PDT
Tuesday 24 October 2017 07.24 EDT
Last modified on Tuesday 24 October 2017 17.00 EDT
Facebook has apologised after an error in its machine-translation service saw Israeli police arrest a Palestinian man for posting “good morning” on his social media profile.
The man, a construction worker in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit, near Jerusalem, posted a picture of himself leaning against a bulldozer with the caption “يصبحهم”, or “yusbihuhum”, which translates as “good morning”.
But Facebook’s artificial intelligence-powered translation service, which it built after parting ways with Microsoft’s Bing translation in 2016, instead translated the word into “hurt them” in English or “attack them” in Hebrew.
Police officers arrested the man later that day, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, after they were notified of the post. They questioned him for several hours, suspicious he was planning to use the pictured bulldozer in a vehicle attack, before realising their mistake. At no point before his arrest did any Arabic-speaking officer read the actual post.