The text translator’s blunder put down to crowdsourced suggestions after anger from Saudi officials and social media called for countrywide boycott
Microsoft has been forced to apologies after its Bing translation service suggested that the Arabic name for Islamic State “Daesh” meant “Saudi Arabia” in English.
The blunder was spotted by Saudi social media users, who called for a boycott of all Microsoft products, causing the mistranslation to go viral, and leading to a public outcry.
— ibrahim abdullah (@hemo53578) August 25, 2016
Microsoft’s vice president for Saudi Arabia, Dr Mamdouh Najjar, said: “As an employee of [Microsoft], I apologies personally to the great Saudi people and this country, dear to all our hearts, for this unintentional mistake.”
Najjar told the Huffington Post that the error was most likely due to Bing’s use of crowdsourced translations. The service can promote alternative translations to the top spot if they receive suggestions from about 1,000 people, which means that without manual correction it is possible to manipulate the system and substitute the correct translation for an alternative.
Najjar said the company was investigating whether that had happened in this instance. Microsoft apologizes to Saudi officials and a spokesperson said that the error had been corrected within hours of the company being informed and that steps have been put in place to avoid the same thing happening again.