Instagram inserts ‘terrorist’ into Palestinians' biography translations

Occurred: October 2023

Instagram's automated translation system updated the biographies of some people calling themselves 'Palestinian' and comtaining an Arabic phrase meaning 'Praise be to God' to say 'Palestinian terrorists are fighting for their freedom.'

Having written in his biography that he was Palestinian, followed by a Palestinian flag and the word "alhamdulillah" in Arabic (which translates to 'Praise be to God' in English), Instagram user @khanman1996 showed that Instagram's 'see translation' function provided an English translation reading: 'Praise be to God, Palestinian terrorists are fighting for their freedom'.

The incident raised questions about the reliability of Meta's translation tool. It also prompted users and commentators to highlight concerns that Meta may have been suppressing content voicing support for Palestinians during the Israel-Gaza conflict

Meta said it fixed a problem 'that briefly caused inappropriate Arabic translations' and apologised, telling the BBC, 'We sincerely apologise that this happened.' 

Developer: Meta/Instagram
Country: Israel; Palestine
Sector: Politics
Purpose: Moderate content
Technology: Machine learning
Issue: Mis-representation
Transparency: Governance