WeChat apologizes after turning 'black foreigner' into racial slur

WeChat apologizes after turning 'black foreigner' into racial slur

WeChat apologizes after turning 'black foreigner' into racial slur

Chinese messaging app WeChat has apologized after translating a neutral word meaning black foreigner in Chinese into a racial slur in English. A WeChat spokesperson added that the engine was constantly being refined to provide "more accurate, faithful, expressive, and elegant" results.

Such systems are notorious for incorporating the biases and errors of the data sources on which they are trained, which appears to be what occurred here.

In the example James provided, the offending sentence read "the nigger's still late".

"I know there's a lot of curiosity and a lot of ignorance about black people [in China]", said James, who was quick to emphasize that she loves the country she's called home for five years.

Upom experiencing disgust, James learned that the Chinese phrase "hei laowai" was a neutral expression, not profanity. "I just think that we need to have more open discussion between Chinese people and black people".

That's nice and all, but the real question here is why is the word even in the translator? She told SixthTone that she was unsurprised by the error. "If you're a black person in China, you've come up against some craziness", she said.

According to The Guardian, the app, which serves nearly 900 million users said that the slur was a result of the artificial intelligence software that translates between Chinese and English.

James said she was pleased by WeChat's response. Google's own translation product, widely seen as the best on the market, can offer up problematic outputs.

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