Facebook translates President Xi as 'Mr Shithole'

Occurred: January 2020

A post about President Xi’s visit to Myanmar posted on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's official Facebook page contained references to 'Mr. Shithole' when translated from Burmese to English.

Xi had been visting Myanmar and had signed dozens of agreements covering Beijing-backed infrastructure plans with Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to Reuters, Google’s translation function did not show the same error. A headline in local news journal the Irrawaddy also appeared as 'Dinner honors president shithole'.

Facebook, which is blocked in China, apologised for causing any offence caused and said its system did not have President Xi Jinping’s name in its Burmese database and guessed at the translation. 

Translation tests of similar words that start with 'xi' and 'shi' in Burmese also produced 'shithole', it said. 

System 🤖

Operator: Meta/Facebook
Developer: Meta/Facebook

Country: Myanmar

Sector: Politics

Purpose: Translate text

Technology: Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability

Transparency: Governance

Page info
Type: Incident 
Published: February 2023