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Google Apologizes and Gets Rid of Homophobic Translator Responses

Let's not teach more people to talk like this.


When we worry about software going off the rails and harming humanity, throwing discriminatory slurs around isn’t exactly the first thing that jumps to mind. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on Google’s mind, either, and some nasty words and phrases found their way into its translator. You just can’t take your eyes off those machines for a second.

The lapse in computer judgement was noticed by LGBTQ activist group All Out, and they called for Google to fix the issue with an online petition. Here’s what they found that Google was suggesting in translation for the word “gay” :


In addition, Forbes reports, “The word ‘гей’, the Russian equivalent of ‘gay’, has been producing suggestions such as faggot, fag, fairy, queen, sodomite and pansy boy. “

These translations were surprising coming from a company ranked as one of the LBGTQ-friendliest workplaces in the world. As it turns out, Google’s wide-eyed innocent translation software had just been badly influenced by its peers on the Internet. A spokesperson for Google reportedly told All Out,

As soon as we were informed that some of our translations for certain terms were serving inappropriate results, we immediately began working to fix the issue. We apologise for any offence this has caused people.

Our systems produce translations automatically based on existing translations on the web, so we appreciate when users point out issues such as this.

We’re happy to see Google acted quickly and this was all just a big misunderstanding, and so is All Out, writing,

Imagine learning English and being taught to say hateful insults instead of neutral language for “gay”. Google Translate – used by over 500 million people every month – was suggesting slurs as synonyms for the word “gay”.

Thousands of us signed the urgent petition and Google heard us. This is how powerful we are when we stand together.

Now Google translate can move past this and go back to being incredibly useful and/or beatboxing.

(via Forbes)

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Dan Van Winkle (he) is an editor and manager who has been working in digital media since 2013, first at now-defunct Geekosystem (RIP), and then at The Mary Sue starting in 2014, specializing in gaming, science, and technology. Outside of his professional experience, he has been active in video game modding and development as a hobby for many years. He lives in North Carolina with Lisa Brown (his wife) and Liz Lemon (their dog), both of whom are the best, and you will regret challenging him at Smash Bros.