Microsoft forced to apologize after Bing Translator mistakes Saudi Arabia for ISIS

Microsoft had to take steps and ensure its Bing Translator system worked correctly, after it came out the company’s service was translating “Daesh”, a pejorative name in Arabic for Islamic State, to “Saudi Arabia” in English.

A report from The Guardian states the mistake caused outrage on social media, with users calling for a boycott of all Microsoft products. The company was quickly forced to apologize, with its local VP, Dr Mamdouh Najjar coming out publicly and explaining what happened.

According to Najjar, the mistake was due to the algorithms used by Bing Translate, which can be influenced by crowdsourced translations. Apparently as few as a thousand people need to suggest an alternative translation before Bing begins to use it. With such a low barrier of entry, it’s easy to see how the system might have been manipulated.

Microsoft said the mistake was manually fixed within a few hours of it being brought to their attention, and that new safeguards have been put in place to avoid such mistakes in the future.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that an automatic translator gets something wrong, and it most definitely will not be the last time, especially if the system relies on the “wisdom” of the crowds.

Source: The Guardian

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