Media outlet 404media first identified the translation issue. Specifically, profiles with the English word “Palestinian”, the Palestinian flag emoji, and the Arabic phrase “alhamdulillah” were mistakenly auto-translated to “Praise be to god, Palestinian terrorists are fighting for their freedom.”
TikTok user YtKingKhan brought attention to the matter in a video, pointing out that various combinations still yielded the “terrorist” translation. The responses from the audience ranged from disbelief to outrage.
Instagram promptly addressed the problem. The corrected auto-translation now simply says: “Thank God”.
In a statement to Guardian Australia, a Meta spokesperson explained that an “inappropriate Arabic translation” issue affected some of their products and extended their sincere apologies for the oversight.
Fahad Ali, secretary of Electronic Frontiers Australia and a Palestinian resident in Sydney, emphasized the need for Meta to be transparent about the root cause of such biases.
An ex-Facebook staff member shared that this issue deeply upset many, both within and outside the company.
Previously, during the Israel-Hamas conflict, Meta faced accusations of suppressing pro-Palestine content on its platforms. Claims were made that the company was shadow-banning accounts that posted in support of Palestine.
Addressing these concerns, Meta disclosed in a blog post that they had introduced new protocols to manage the surge in potentially harmful content across their platforms. They denied any allegations of suppressing particular voices. They also acknowledged a separate glitch that caused shared reels and posts not to display in Instagram stories, emphasizing that this wasn’t exclusive to content related to Israel and Gaza.
Content that supports Hamas or contains violent imagery is prohibited, but the company admitted that errors in content moderation might occasionally occur and urged users to appeal against such decisions.
Ali called for more clarity from Meta regarding its moderation guidelines. He expressed concerns about the perceived targeting of Palestinian accounts and emphasized that there’s a recurring pattern where Palestinian voices are mistakenly silenced.