This is a sad, soulless testimony to the times we are living in writes Pathikrit Sanyal for DailyO There hasn’t really been a sadder time to be a Muslim in India. Perhaps since Partition, and certainly worse a time when Babri Masjid was barbarically pulverised.
These are times when the mere meat in your refrigerator can get you lynched to death, or hanged from a mango tree after being brutally beaten up.
These are times when Indian Muslims live in perpetual fear, how they inevitably end up upsetting the majority community, or the goons who masquerade as political leaders and cadres who threaten to send anyone who disagrees or dissents to Pakistan, our “evil neighbour”.
These are times when “beef” becomes a euphemism for the criminalised Indian Muslim, when s/he is tagged a terrorist by default, when s/he has to constantly prove their patriotism and wear nationalism on their sleeves, adding to the echo chamber of a militant “India first”, nuances be damned.
These are times when photoshopped images of cow slaughter become reasons why riots happen, why women are gang-raped and then hacked to death.
Can language and technology remain uninfected by this socio-political toxicity?
Of course, not.
Translations, especially the direct translations offered by Bing, Google or anyone for that matter are faulty. No matter how advanced the translation engine is, it will be sometime before it can translate sentences, especially ones that are more colloquial in nature, perfectly.
That being said, a completely wrong translation of a word is not justifiable at all. And that is what seems to be happening on Facebook.
On Twitter, Imaan Sheikh tweeted a screenshot where Facebook had translated the Hindi slur “Madarchod” (mother fuc*er) to the word “Muslim”.
Today in WTF.
— Imaan Sheikh (@sheikhimaan) October 21, 2016
Facebook translations are done by an online community of translators. According to the website, “Volunteer translators help make Facebook available in new languages and can help improve the translations for our existing languages.”
Facebook’s Help Centre also states: “Anyone who wants to bring their language to Facebook or improve the current translations on Facebook can become a translator. Translators need to understand English since you’ll be translating from English.”
Hence, akin to Wikipedia, anyone can edit and make translations for Facebook, though unlike Wikipedia, the level of moderation seems to be less than satisfactory.
But what is going on in the name of a simple translation is intentional or unintentional Islamophobia. One can flag mistranslations, but so far, either no one has flagged this rather blatant communal abuse, or Facebook has been lazy in terms of taking action.
How long before social media giants take action against this rampant communalism in the garb of technology? And what would that “action” be, other than a lame “apology”?
This is a sad, soulless testimony to the times we are living in.
Editor’s note: Shortly after DaliyO’s story, Facebook has revised the mistranslation and the said expletive is now reflected as “idiot”.