Google under fire for mistranslating Chinese amid Hong Kong protests

Google under fire for mistranslating Chinese amid Hong Kong protests
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Google is facing pushback after a recent translation error switched a phrase to one more in line with the message of the People's Republic of China amid pro-democracy protests.

Last week, Google Translate reportedly mistranslated the phrase "I am sad to see Hong Kong become part of China" to "I am happy to see Hong Kong become part of China." 

The error, which was corrected the same day, came as hundreds of thousands of protestors marched in the streets, even after leader Carrie Lam shelved a contentious extradition bill, according to the New York Times. 

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump China sanctioning Rubio, Cruz in retaliatory move over Hong Kong The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Negotiators signal relief bill stuck, not dead MORE (R-Mo.) sent a letter to Google Tuesday claiming the website may have been "negligent" regarding the recent translation error that he said advanced the "authoritarian government" narrative. 


A Google spokesman said in an email that "these automatic systems can sometimes make unintentional mistakes like translating a negative to a positive."

"Google Translate is an automatic translator, using patterns from millions of existing translations to help decide on the best translation for you," the spokesman added.

Hawley, in his letter, said he remains concerned that "given Google’s close relationship with Beijing and financial incentive to remain close to that authoritarian government," the company "may have been negligent in performing the due diligence that could have averted this mistranslation at a juncture where precision of message is so critical." 

Google must place "principle over profit" and protect its products against such interference, he said. 

--This report was updated at 1:54 p.m.