In a classic case of getting lost in translation, social media giant Facebook on Saturday apologised for a distasteful mistranslation of China's President Xi Jinping's name from Burmese language posts during his much-touted visit to Myanmar. His two-day visit to Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw was the first made by a Chinese leader in almost two decades.
The error caught the company’s attention when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's civilian, wrote on her official Facebook page about Xi’s two-day visit to her country.
The historic moment was dimmed by the automatic translation feature on Myanmar's Facebook -- which rendered Xi Jinping's name from Burmese into English as "Mr S***hole".
"Mr S***hole, President of China arrives at 4 PM," said a translated statement posted.
"President of China, Mr. S***hole, signed a guest record of the house of representatives," it continued.
Facebook apologised for the incident, blaming a technical glitch for the inadvertent indecency.
A statement about the visit published on Suu Kyi’s official Facebook page was littered with references to “Mr Shithole” when translated to English, while a headline in local news journal the Irrawaddy appeared as “Dinner honors president shithole”.
It was not clear how long the issue lasted but Google’s translation function did not show the same error.
“We fixed a technical issue that caused incorrect translations from Burmese to English on Facebook. This should not have happened and we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We sincerely apologize for the offense this has caused,” Facebook said in a statement.
The Facebook system did not have President Xi Jinping’s name in its Burmese database and guessed at the translation, the company said. Translation tests of similar words that start with “xi” and “shi” in Burmese also produced “shithole”, it added.
The site is blocked in mainland China but not in Hong Kong and mainland companies advertise elsewhere on the platform, making China Facebook's biggest country for revenue after the United States.