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Facebook apologizes after translating Chinese president’s name as ‘Mr S–thole’

Facebook has been at the center of its share of scandals over the years. We’ve seen enough to know the company doesn’t really care about its users’ privacy. The Cambridge Analytica fiasco from a couple of years ago was just the beginning.

Last month we told you about a Facebook data breach that exposed more than 200 million accounts online. Tap or click here to learn more about the massive breach and how you can adjust settings to strengthen your privacy.

Now, a “technical error” is being blamed for causing an embarrassing international incident. Apparently, Facebook can’t get something as simple as translating a name correctly.

Lost in translation

So, here’s what’s happening. Chinese leader Xi Jinping was recently visiting Myanmar to sign some Beijing-backed infrastructure agreements when a statement about the visit was published on the official Facebook page of a State Counselor of Myanmar.

But here’s the problem. When the statement was translated from Burmese to English on Facebook, Jinping’s name appeared as “Mr S–thole.”

RELATED: Facebook shared your private data with developers — again

Facebook acknowledged the mixup and apologized for the embarrassing incident. The company blamed it on a technical issue.

In a statement to Reuters, Facebook explained:

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.”


Apparently Jinping’s name was not in Facebook’s database, so the program “guessed” the translation. The company said it tested other words that start with “xi” and “shi” in Burmese and they had the same problem with the program translating them into “s–thole.”

Since we’re talking about Facebook …

While you probably don’t have to worry about an embarrassing translation situation like this one, you do need to worry about protecting your privacy if you’re still using Facebook.

One way to do that is to find out what information of yours is being shared with other companies. To do this you can run what’s called a “privacy checkup.”

Here’s how:

  1. Click the question mark at the top of any page on Facebook.
  2. Select Privacy Checkup.
  3. Four options should appear Who can see what you share, How to keep your account secure, How people can find you on Facebook, and Your data settings on Facebook.
  4. Click on each option to adjust the settings according to your preference.
  5. For smartphones, simply open the app and tap the magnifying glass. In the search bar that opens, type in “Privacy checkup” and it will take you to the appropriate settings. Follow the same instructions as above.

The privacy checkup tells you which apps are sharing your data and what information is public. Pay attention to your profile settings, since these are the ones most commonly scanned by apps looking for data, and by Facebook.

That’s just one way to beef up your privacy on the social media site, but there are others. Tap or click here to learn about privacy settings you need to use for Facebook.

Following these suggestions is the least you should do if you are sticking with Facebook. The site isn’t safe to use without making a few adjustments.

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