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Israel police arrest Palestinian man after Facebook translates 'good morning' as 'attack them

Image source: TheBlaze

Israel police arrested a Palestinian construction worker in the West Bank last week after he shared what they thought was a threatening and possibly dangerous Facebook update, according to Haaretz.

What was in the post?

  • The Palestinian man shared a photo of himself on Facebook while on a construction site job.
  • The man in the photo was dressed in casual clothing and holding a cup and a cigarette. He was positioned in front of a bulldozer.
  • The man shared the image with a caption that said "good morning" in Arabic — however, Facebook translated his speech to mean "attack them" in Hebrew, or "hurt them" in English.

What happened as a result?

  • According to Haaretz, the man's photo appeared in Facebook's feed, and officers used Facebook's translation service to view the photo's caption. This isn't surprising, as the Israel Defense Forces monitor Palestinians’ social media in order to keep their finger on the pulse of impending terror attacks. Bulldozers have been used in terrorists attacks.
  • "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," Arabic speakers told Haaretz.
  • The man was reportedly held for several hours, but released after law enforcement realized the translation error.

Was Facebook notified of the issue?

Yes. A spokesperson for the social networking company issued the following statement to Gizmodo:

Unfortunately, our translation systems made an error last week that misinterpreted what this individual posted. Even though our translations are getting better each day, mistakes like these might happen from time to time and we’ve taken steps to address this particular issue. We apologize to him and his family for the mistake and the disruption this caused.
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