Facebook Translate Error Lands Palestinian Man In Israeli Detention

from the bad-morning dept

Like many people today, I have a decent amount of experience using Facebook's language translations. With Geigners the world over, including an eyebrow-raising number of them in South America, I've found the translations to be a useful if imperfect way for me to interact with distant family members that reside in countries and continents far from the States. Imperfect is a key word there, however, as some of the garbled nonsense that results from translations can range from somewhat funny to downright perplexing. It goes without saying that relying on a website's translation alone to interpret someone writing in a different language is a harrowing experience fraught with error.

Or maybe I should say that all of that should go without saying, because it seems that Israeli police relied solely on Facebook's translation services to lead them to arresting a Palestinian man who appeared to simply try to be congenial.

A smiling Palestinian construction worker posted a photo of himself leaning against a bulldozer and holding a cup of coffee and a cigarette. He posted the photo on Facebook along with “good morning” in Arabic.

Israeli police, relying on Facebook’s translation service, believed the post said “attack them.” Haaretz reported, “The automatic translation service offered by Facebook uses its own proprietary algorithms. It translated ‘good morning’ as ‘attack them’ in Hebrew and ‘hurt them’ in English.”

To be clear, it took a lot of unhappy coincidences to get us to this story occurring in the first place. To start, the Arabic language differences between the two phrases mostly amounts to the difference of a single Arabic letter. Add to it that the man's Facebook post showed him in front of a bulldozer which has in the past been utilized as a weapon to attack Israeli people and buildings and you can start to see how the warning bells for Israeli Police had begun to sound. Now mix in that this Palestinian man was on the job constructing the Beitar Illit Israeli settlement, which itself has been a source of controversy in the past, and you might be tempted to forgive the Israeli police for briefly detaining this Palestinian man.

Except that pretty much every Arabic speaker that has taken an even cursory glance at the post immediately identified the translation error.

Haaretz explained, “Arabic speakers explained that English transliteration used by Facebook is not an actual word in Arabic but could look like the verb ‘to hurt’ — even though any Arabic speaker could clearly see the transliteration did not match the translation.”

Anyone who might want to suggest that the Israeli Police have no access to Arabic speakers they could have run this past does so at the risk of their own credibility. Put more frankly, relying on a Facebook translation to arrest a man who was in fact doing nothing more than being blandly amiable is pretty ridiculous. Given the reputation of Israel's security services, I would have expected better.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2017 @ 1:44pm

    At least they did not immediately try to ruin his life like the FBI are prone to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2017 @ 2:00pm

    The solution is obvious.

    Don't use social media. Problem solved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2017 @ 2:03pm

      Re: The solution is obvious.

      Given that people seem to automatically assume the worst. I completely agree. It is one of the reasons I stopped using social media 7 years ago.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2017 @ 6:02pm

      Re: The solution is obvious.

      ha! That behavior is a certain outlier and thus deserves further scrutiny and additional persecution.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      michael, 26 Oct 2017 @ 11:50am

      Re: The solution is obvious.

      "Do not do X because governments are stupid" strikes me as an ass-backwards way of thinking.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2017 @ 2:09pm

    Expectations Vary

    "Given the reputation of Israel's security services, I would have expected better."

    Really? I would have expected exactly this. Knee-jerk oppression of Palestinians with laughably imperfectly unvetted evidence strikes me as entirely par for the course for Israeli "security services," a.k.a., "Secret State Police."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2017 @ 2:45pm

    Message from the Future

    This story is going to be a really big deal in early 2019. Mark your calendars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Oct 2017 @ 2:57pm

    We don't need to know, we just need to act.

    Look at the DoJ relying on the **AA's "expert" knowledge, its "unique" understanding of how tech works.

    They shouldn't need to know the language, they can rely on a random tool that they assume is perfect because its technology.

    When the legal system can't be bothered to learn anything and just relies on someone/something else to explain it to them you end up with issues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mason Wheeler, 25 Oct 2017 @ 3:08pm

    With Geigners the world over

    Wow, how many of them are there?

    Maybe someone should take a census or survey of the size of your extended family. I suppose that would make them a Geigner counter...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 25 Oct 2017 @ 3:18pm

    נשך אותי

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mononymous Tim (profile), 25 Oct 2017 @ 3:33pm

      So...

      Google Translate says "bit me" in Hebrew when left to auto-detect the language, or "Bitten me" when Arabic is selected.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        orbitalinsertion (profile), 25 Oct 2017 @ 9:31pm

        Re: So...

        I can get 2 different translations from teh Goog, depending on how i do it. Translation machines are a hoot. Originally it was "bite me", immediately translated back, "bit me". I did not sort though other possibilities to see if any "worked better".

        It's probably a good thing that Israel is not an island in the Philippines.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dirty Hungarian, 25 Oct 2017 @ 4:15pm

    I will not buy this record, it is scratched.
    My hover craft is full of ells.

    Bouncy bouncy

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Châu, 25 Oct 2017 @ 4:16pm

    Where is Arab language?

    Where photo and Arab language? Why not show it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 25 Oct 2017 @ 4:49pm

    “[XXX] Lands Palestinian Man In Israeli Detention”

    Nothing new in this, except for what goes in place of the “[XXX]”: Israeli excuse for detaining Palestinians, number Two Thousand Three Hundred And Thirty-Four.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Oct 2017 @ 6:53pm

    They said WHAT?

    The state of 'online' translations is laughable. I use Google Translate often, mostly between English and Spanish, but every time I do I lead with an apology, it's just Google Translate, which often come up with comical results.

    My question is, why is this so hard? I do understand the there are significant differences between languages, and that there are some concepts that don't exist in other cultures. But these have long been taken care of by actual linguists who communicate in both languages. What is the impediment for including these for text representations of different written words, and further, spoken? There are some finite things, and there are some not so finite things. I do, however, not see them as being difficult. But maybe I am missing some intrinsic point.

    In the end, when I read my Spanish news translated by Google, there are some really laughable headlines, and to read the actual stories, it takes some serious thinking to figure out what they actually mean. It does not seem to be as hard as it apparently is. But...why is that? Over years, one would think there would be some improvement.

    Google Translate offers an option to provide a better translation. Maybe they, and others, should spend a bit of money and have some actual linguists take a look, and actually offer better translations. Not on an individual basis, but over time, shouldn't it get better? I don't think it would be that expensive, and with improved results, there should be some market for their efforts?

    Rant over...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2017 @ 1:12am

    I expect that "inadvertent detention" is excluded somewhere in the Facebook TOS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2017 @ 7:03am

    Did Israel overreact? Maybe, maybe not.

    Ever heard the term "better safe than sorry"?

    Imagine this, bunch of guys from the middle east take flying lessons. No worries about that, right?

    No one had ever flown planes into buildings, just hi-jacked planes for political reasons or money. No need to secure the cockpit doors, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2017 @ 12:41pm

    Du hast/hasst mich
    (You have/hate me)

    Aren't homophones fun?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dobbie606 (profile), 26 Oct 2017 @ 1:28pm

    re: kill dozers: cutting the grass

    Then: abc.net.auabc.net.au/news/2008-07-03 'A Palestinian man rampaged in a bulldozer along one of west Jerusalem's busiest streets overnight, killing three people.'
    VS  
    NOW: aroundworld24.com/2017/02/08/al-araqeeb-razed-for-the-109th-time/

    'Israeli authorities demanded
    that the people of the village pay
    two million shekels($533,000)in costs
    for
    the first eight times the village was razed.'

    Al-Araqeeb razed for the 109th time
    Israeli bulldozers razed Al-Araqeeb village for the 109th time this morning.
    Bulldozers arrived in the early hours of the morning at the entrance of the village in the Negev. They then besieged it and razed the shelters under which the village people take refuge...How many people have died
    from Gaza rockets into Israel?

    Phan Nguyen
    Mondoweiss
    July 14, 2014

    Fatalities from rocket and mortar attacks in Israel from the Gaza Strip, 2001–present
    (up-to-date as of August 29, 2014)

    Total fatalities in the history of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza into Israel: 44
    Civilians: 30 (including 2 killed at military posts)
    Soldiers: 14
    Rocket fatalities only: 23
    Total fatality-producing strikes: 32 (19 rocket, 13 mortar)
    Total rocket and mortar fatalities incurred in Israel during major Israeli “anti-rocket” military offensives: 27


    “Cutting the grass” – that’s the term
    that Israelis use for bombing Gaza.
    Bibi
    doesn’t need to worry about running out of “lawnmowers,”
    thanks to Obama & the US Congress.
    --James Bovard is the author of  Public Policy Hooligan (2012), Attention Deficit Democracy (St. Martin’s/Palgrave, 2006), and 8 other books. He is a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Washington Post,  and other publications.  He is  a contributing editor of The Freeman and The American Conservative and a regular contributor to the Future of Freedom magazine. His books have been translated into Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, and Korean.

    http://ifamericaknew.org/stat/usaid.html
    The U.S. provides Israel $10.1 million* in military aid each day

    “Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America's entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. This largesse is especially striking when one realizes that Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to South Korea or Spain.”

    - John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt
    "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"
    Read our memo on the new 10-year $38 billion aid package to Israel just signed by President Obama.


    Operation “Cast Lead”: December 27, 2008–January 18, 2009
    1,400 Palestinians, 6 Israeli soldiers killed

    Operation “Pillar of Cloud”: November 14, 2012–November 21, 2012
    1500 Palestinians  killed


    Operation “Protective Edge”: July 8, 2014–August 26, 2014
    2,100 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip,
    along with 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28439404

           Life in Gaza
    1.8m   people living in Gaza
       4,505  per square kilometre
    475,000 living in emergency shelters or with other families
                  17,200 homes destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli attacks
    244 schools damaged
    Source: Ocha (26 August 2014)

    Israel has been criticised for using the so-called "knock on the roof" method - warning people of impending airstrikes by launching a non-explosive missile before the main strike. Some airstrikes have occurred less than a minute later.


    http://rense.com/general21/pastzionist.htm

    Past Zionist-Jewish Terrorism -
    Some Historical Facts
    From A Concerned American
    3-23-2

    Following are just a few of the many massacres committed by Jewish-Zionist terrorists, notably by the Zionist Hagana, Irgun and Stern Gang groups.

    Don't expect any Hollywood films highlighting any of these massacres:

    1. King David Hotel, July 22, 1946.
    2. Sharafat, Feb. 7, 1951.
    3. Deir Yassin, April 10, 1948.
    4. Falameh, April 2, 1951.
    5. Naseruddine, April 14, 1948.
    6. Quibya, Oct. 14, 1953.
    7. Carmel, April 20, 1948.
    8. Nahalin, March, 28, 1954.
    9. Al-Qabu, May 1, 1948.
    10. Gaza, Feb. 28, 1955.
    11. Beit Kiras, May 3, 1948.
    12. Khan Yunis, May 31, 1955.
    13. Beitkhoury, May 5, 1948.
    14. Khan Yunis Again, Aug. 31, 1955
    15. Az-Zaytoun, May 6, 1948.
    16. Tiberia, Dec. 11, 1955.
    17. Wadi Araba, May 13, 1950.
    18. As-Sabha, Nov. 2, 1955.
    19. Gaza Again, April 5, 1956.
    20. Houssan, Sept. 25, 1956.
    21. Rafa, Aug. 16, 1956.
    22. Qalqilyah, Oct. 10, 1956.
    23. Ar-Rahwa, Sept. 12, 1956.
    24. Kahr Kassem, Oct. 29, 1956.
    25. Gharandal, Sept. 13, 1956.
    26. Gaza Strip, Nov. 1956.
    1956: Squads of Israeli soldiers committed a hideous atrocity in the Palestinian village of Kafr Qasim, 47 innocent people were shot down in cold blood. The careful and premeditated mass murders, never received great attention in the West. Although the Israeli courts convicted eight soldiers of murder, they were all released within two years of their trial, and within three years one of them who had been convicted of killing 43 Arabs in an hour, was engaged by the municipality of Ramleh as the "officer responsible for Arab affairs in the city." In October 1956 Israel, backed by England and France, attacked Egypt to gain control of the Suez Canal.

    Taking advantage of the situation created by Egypt's decision of nationalization of the Suez Canal, Israel joined forces with Britain and France to invade Egypt. As a result, it occupied the Sinai Peninsula, seized the Gaza Strip, and Sharm Al sheikh which guarded the Strait of Tiran and the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba. a year letter it withdrew reluctantly under the combined pressure of the U.N., U.S.A. and the Soviet Union.

    There was no military necessity for this destruction; it was sheer vengeance against Arab Christians. This action created another 300,000 Arab refugees, thus making a total refugee population of Christian and Muslin Arabs, which is larger than the combined populations of Montana, Nevada and Wyoming. It was during this campaign that the Israeli's attacked the U.S.S. Liberty with the death of 34 of its number. If this had been an Egyptian or a Russian attack, American would have been at war, but the Jewish vote of America silenced any American criticisms of this action. Americans are also not told that Israel has always refused to obey any mandate of the United Nations. Resolutions affirmed by vote every year since 1948 recognize the right of the return of Palestinian refugees, but Israel always refuses to obey. Israel has been condemned over and over again for breaking the charter and now fulfilling the conditions upon which she was allowed to become a member!

    1960-1962: Israeli forces attacked Syrian villages on Lade Tiberias and brought death to hundreds of Arab civilians.

    1966: Squads of Israeli soldiers raided the Jordanian village of Sammu, they killed 18 civilians, wounded 100 others and demolished 130 houses including a school, a clinic and a mosque.

    1967: THE U.S.S. Liberty was deliberately attacked in international waters as it monitored communications during the Six-Day War. Israel used U.S.-donated equipment to jam the ship's S.O.S., hoping to sink it and murder all aboard before word could get out. 34 sailors were butchered and 170 wounded in this blatant Act of War. The Liberty was part of the Sixth Fleet, a powerful group of men and ships paid for by U.S. Taxpayers to protect the Israeli's. What do the Jews think of our American Service Men, the descendants of the men who pulled their chestnuts out of the fire in World War II?

    June 5, 1967: Israeli committed its biggest, most treacherous and premeditated aggression against Egypt, Syria and Jordan. After destroying Arab aircraft on the ground in a lightening attack, Israeli forces invaded and occupied the rest of Palestine, that is, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. In the first days of its aggression and in plain disregard of the truth, Israel fabricated a charge of aggression against its victims and presented it in a dramatic manner to the U.N. Security Council. Western media spread this fabricated story and the whole world sympathized with the supposed victim. In 1967 the Israeli's made a third ruthless blitzkrieg attack upon the Arabs. This time they deliberately destroyed three quarters of a million dollar's worth of church property.

    The great deception practiced by Israel on the U.N. and the whole world is now completely discredited, the Israelis, therefore, changed their tactics and rely nowadays on the argument that, they were NOT attacked by Egypt, they were in danger of BEING attacked, and hence they resorted to a so-called pre-emptive strike. Alan Hart quotes a former Israeli Director of military intelligence as telling him "if Nasser had not given Israel the excuse to attack the Arabs, Israel would have invented a pretext for war within six or ten months" because its military planners had decided that the time had come to knock out vast amounts of mainly Soviet-supplied Arab armor. Yitzhak Rabin, who as chief of staff planned this attack told Le Monde in February 1968, quite simply: "We knew that Nasser did not intend to attack."

    February 15, 1968: Israel invaded PLO bases in Karamah, on the eastern bank of the River Jordan with helicopter-borne troops and tanks. Three hundred commandos fought off 1,500 Israeli soldiers and force them to retreat. The battle lasted all day and into the evening. Although the village was totally destroyed, the Palestinian defenders repelled the Israelis and inflicted heavy casualties among the invaders. By the Israeli account, they lost 28 soldiers and 90 were wounded.

    1969: The Israelis distinguished themselves by committing a horrible crime, in retaliation of attrition war across the Suez Canal, Israeli war planes raided an Egyptian school "Bahr al Baker" in southern Egypt killing 75 children and wounding over 100.

    August 1969: An Israeli set fire to one of the most sacred Islamic shrines. Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, causing extensive damage to it. This crime plunged over one billion Muslims throughout the world into the deepest anguish.

    March 12, 1970: Israeli forces invaded part of South Lebanon known as "Fatah-Land" killing a number of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.

    September 8, 1972 -- Without any apparent cause or reason, Israeli Phantoms bombed Palestinian targets in Lebanon and Syria in a series of raids killing hundreds of civilians. This action was explained by the Israeli prime minister the next day, who in the Knesset, that "Israel had now adopted a new policy to strike at the terrorist organizations where ever we can reach them."

    February 21, 1973: Israel landed commando units on the coasts of the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. They attacked two Palestinian refugees camps, dynamited several houses and buildings, some over the heads of their occupants, killing 35 refugees and wounding a similar number. On the same day, Israeli war planes shot down a Libyan Civilian Aircraft over the Sinai Desert killing over 100 passengers.

    April 10, 1973: Israeli commando units with the help of some Lebanese collaborators stormed into a residential quarter in East Beirut and killed three PLO leaders: Yusef Al Najjar, Kamal Adwan and Kamal Nasser.

    1974: Israeli air-borne commando units attacked Beirut airport and destroyed 13 Lebanese civilian aircraft on the ground.

    In the same year, Israeli planes intercepted a civilian Syrian aircraft and forced it to land at Lydda (Lod) airport on suspicion that it was carrying a Palestinian commando leader. Christian shrines in Jerusalem were subjected to several acts of aggression and robbery. This included damaging the church of the Holy Sepulchre, burying four other Christian centers, and stealing the diamond Crown of the Virgin Mary.

    1975-1980: Israeli's intelligence service, the Mossad, distinguished itself by feats of terrorist actions that killed a number of Arab and Palestinian diplomats, scientists and journalists such as the PLO representatives in London, Rome, Paris and Brussels, prominent Palestinian journalist and writer Ghassan Kanafani and the Egyptian nuclear scientist Dr. Al Mashad.

    1981: Putting their so-called pre-emptive policy in action, Israeli warplanes raided and destroyed a peaceful Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad.

    June 6, 1982: The Israeli armed forces invaded Lebanon. Less than two weeks after its election, the New Menachem Begin government unleashed the first blow in its war to liquidate the PLO in Lebanon.

    June 1982: Israeli forced launched their savage invasion of Lebanon. As a result of this invasion a great number of refugee camps, Lebanese towns and villages were destroyed. Israeli warplanes launched eight raids on Palestinian targets in South Lebanon and Beirut, killing nearly one thousand people and wounding many others. The fantasy of the "pre-emptive strike policy" was dropped and even the Jerusalem Post correspondent was at pains to explain the purpose of the bombing raids. "The past few days of activities on the northern border followed five weeks of quiet. It is not know what triggered Israeli's Friday afternoon raid." Outraged by Israel's onslaught and the cruel destruction of Beirut, Jewish journalist Jacobo Timmerman called Begin "unbalanced" a "terrorist" and "a disgrace to the people." He accused Sharon of helping to make Israel "the Prussia of the Middle East.&quo t;

    July 17, 1982: U.S. supplied F-4 and F-5 jets swooped low over Beirut in 4 passes, bombing the densely-populated Fakahani district. Five tall apartment buildings were destroyed, 200 people were killed and 800 wounded. Forty percent of the victims were small children, and one of the survivors was an unborn baby pulled by doctors from the dead mother's womb. Israel's then Chief-of-staff Rafael Eitan announced on Israeli Radio that civilian causalities were unimportant and that the Arab causalities suffered as of the July 17 attack did not yet constitute the Israeli "final solution."

    September 1982: Israeli raids and bombardments continued during the weeks following the raid on Beirut in July. It was the beginning of the invasion of Beirut; after which an 80 days war led by Ariel Sharon, (then War Minister of Israel) resulted in the destruction of much of Beirut, killing and wounding thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese civilians. It was during this invasion that the massacre of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps was committed. Where over 2,500 Palestinian women, children and elderly people were slaughtered in cold blood. Even the Israeli high court held a number of the Israeli military officers, including Sharon, responsible.

    October 1982: Israeli terrorists bombed the houses, cars and offices of three elected Palestinian mayors on the West Bank, Nablus, Ramallah and Al Beireh.

    1984: Israeli warships and gunboats intercepted merchant ships on the high seas off the coast of Lebanon and kidnapped a number of Palestinians.

    1985: Israeli planes raided and destroyed the PLO headquarters in Tunis.

    1986: Israeli secret agents assassinated a noted Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al Ali, in London.

    April 1988: Israeli commando units stormed into the house of Khalil Al Wazir, in Tunis. Al Wazir who was the most senior PLO military commander and believed to be in charge of the Intifada, was murdered while sleeping.

    February and March 1989: Israeli F-16 planes pounded Palestinian targets in Lebanon's Shouf Mountains, Damour and the Beka's valley with a series of raids killing a numbers of civilians, including 15 school children in Damour.

    April 14, 1989: Israeli border guards and settlers attacked the peaceful and unarmed village of Nahalin near Bethlehem. Eight Palestinians were massacred for no reason and over 50 were injured. The killings took place late in the night and at the beginning of the Holy month of Ramadan..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2017 @ 1:08am

      Re: re: kill dozers: cutting the grass

      I wonder... how much longer would your post be if you included all of the "noble defensive actions" taken against Israelis?

      TL;DR - Israelis and Palestinians whack each other in not nice ways

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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