December 17, 2019 / 11:19 AM / 2 months ago

Feature or bug? Translation key on China's WeChat takes jabs at other country's flags

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese social media giant Tencent Holdings Ltd said on Tuesday that it will fix a “translation bug” on its chat app WeChat that sends out distinct non-sequitors when country flags are inputted via text message.

FILE PHOTO: A picture illustration shows a WeChat app icon in Beijing, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

Reuters could not confirm when the glitch first surfaced or its origin, though reports of it by users began circulating widely on Twitter on Tuesday.

Sending a message with an emoticon representing a flag, and then using the WeChat’s auto-translate feature from Chinese to English, yields English-language messages that at times appear to mock the country that the flag represents, though often has no discernible sense.

“We are taking immediate action to fix a translation bug on WeChat,” a Tencent spokeswoman told Reuters in a statement.

“We appreciate users who flagged it and would like to apologize for any inconvenience caused. We will continue to improve our products and services.”

Inputting the flags of many countries yielded non-sequitors in translation but one example that caused much discussion on Twitter was autotranslating the emoji for Canada’s flag, which yielded the English words “he is in prison”.

Last year, Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies and the daughter of its founder at the request of the United States, which has charged her for allegedly committing bank fraud.

China detained two Canadian citizens, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, shortly after her arrest and has charged them with gathering state secrets.

The Canadian Embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Other examples of the glitch included inputting the flag for Myanmar, which yielded the phrase “jackass” in translation. Bosnia yielded the phrase “he’s in a coma,” and Argentina yielded the phrase “you’re in love”.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz and Pei Li; Additional reporting by Colin Qian in Beijing; Editing by Susan Fenton

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