'Mr. Shithole': Facebook apologizes for Chinese premier's name gaffe

Social networking website Facebook committed a major gaffe, when it translated Chinese President Xi Jinping's name, from Burmese to English, as 'Mr Shithole'

Chinese President Xi Jinping was on a two-day state visit to Myanmar, signing a slew of infrastructure agreements, furthering President Xi's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Facebook committed a major blunder on the second day of his visit when the Burmese to English translation of the Chinese leader's name read 'Mr Shithole'.

Facebook apologized for its mistake and said that the company is "taking steps to ensure it doesn't happen again".

'Mr Shithole'

Xi Jinping

The gaffe first appeared on the second day of Mr Xi's visit to the south-east Asian nation in a statement on state councilor Aung San Suu Kyi's facebook page. A post commemorating Mr Xi's visit, though written in Burmese, when translated by users to English, it translated Mr Xi Jinping to 'Mr. Shithole'

A similar blunder appeared in a headline of a local news journal the 'Irrawaddy', which read "Dinner honours president Shithole". Although the Google translation function did not show the same error.

Why did the error occur?

Facebook gaffe

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

Facebook has faced translation issues of Burmese language, in the past, as well. In one post, it showed an anti-Rohingya post advocating killing of Muslim minorities, as "I shouldn't have a rainbow in Myanmar". Millions of Rohingya minorities have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar due to military crackdown, which the United Nations has described as being carried out with "genocidal intent".


On Saturday, Facebook issued an apology statement, that read: "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 apologize for the offence this has caused".

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