Chinese messaging app WeChat has apologised after its software used the N-word as an English translation for the Chinese for “black foreigner”.
The company blamed its algorithms for producing the error.
It was spotted by Ann James, a black American living in Shanghai, when she texted her Chinese colleagues to say she was running late.
Ms James, who uses WeChat’s translation feature to read Chinese responses, got the reply: “The [racial slur] is late.”
Horrified, she checked the Chinese phrase – “hei laowai” – with a co-worker and was told it was a neutral expression, not a profanity.
WeChat acknowledged the error to China-focused news site Sixth Tone, saying: “We’re very sorry for the inappropriate translation. After receiving users’ feedback, we immediately fixed the problem.”
The app’s software uses artificial intelligence that has been fed huge reams of text to help it pick the best translations.
These are based on context, so it sometimes uses insulting phrases when talking about negative events.
Local outlet That’s Shanghai tested the app, and found that when used to wish someone happy birthday, the phrase “hei laowai” was translated as “black foreigner”. But when a sentence included negative words like “late” or “lazy,” it produced the racist insult.
Almost a billion people use WeChat, which lets users play games, shop online, and pay for things as well as sending messages. It resembles another popular chat app, WhatsApp, but is subject to censorship.
A research group at the University of Toronto analysed the terms blocked on WeChat in March, and found they included “Free Tibet”, “Down with the Communist Party”, and many mentions of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was China’s most prominent human rights advocate.
While Marsha P Johnson may not be a household name, a fiery digital debate has started about who is “allowed” to bring her story to the screen.
Johnson was a black transgender woman and outspoken advocate for transgender rights in the 1960s. Most famously, she was a key participant in the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. Many see those events, which broke out after a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a prominent gay bar, as the start of the gay rights movement in the United States.
Johnson’s story is the subject of a new Netflix documentary by David France, an established filmmaker who’s also gay and white. But France is not the only one who’s been looking into the story. Reina Gossett, a black transgender filmmaker, claimed in an Instagram post that France’s film used her research without permission. He has vehemently denied these allegations.
Gossett’s post received thousands of likes and shares on social media, sparking a wider debate, with many arguing that France should not have made a film about Johnson – or at least that he should have backed Gossett’s efforts to bring the story to light.
What happened to Marsha P Johnson?
Johnson is receiving a small flurry of attention right now, but in the early 1970s, some in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community tried to distance themselves from Johnson and other transgender and drag queen activists.
In 1992, Johnson went missing and her body was found six days later in the Hudson River. Police at the time called it a suicide, a ruling which many in the community disputed – citing high levels of violence against transgender women.
Gossett and France have approached telling Marsha P Johnson’s largely forgotten history in very different ways.
Gossett is working with filmmaker Sasha Wortzel on “Happy Birthday Marsha”, a fictionalised short film on the hours leading up to the Stonewall riots. Whereas France’s “The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson” is a documentary following trans activist Victoria Cruz as she investigates the circumstances of Johnson’s death.
However, some on social media have argued France should have stepped aside and let Gossett, a member of the trans community, tell Johnson’s story.
Lourdes Hunter, founder of the Trans Women of Color Collective, a grassroots organisation based in Washington DC, described France’s documentary as “compelling,” but felt that France should have used his position as an established filmmaker and a white man to promote the work of those in the black trans community.
“Stories about black trans women should be told by black trans women,” she tells BBC Trending.
Hunter added that France’s proclaimed support of Gossett’s film is not enough.
“People who have access to resources, have access to social capital, access to finances, their role in the movement is to leverage their access so that the people who are supposed to be telling these stories… who are actually living these lives, [their] voices can be elevated.”
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France, however, said he felt creating this documentary was a way of atoning for some of his community’s past mistakes.
“For me to not go back, for me to not revisit that story about which I knew so much already, would align me with the people who were eliminating their narrative from our history,” France says, adding that the stories of historically important figures belong to all of humanity.
Gossett did not respond to BBC Trending’s questions, but recently expanded on her initial post.
“As France’s documentary starts to make its way to large audiences, I can’t stop thinking about the voices that have been pushed aside in the process,” she wrote in an article for Teen Vogue.
“Too often, people with resources who already have a platform become the ones to tell the stories of those at the margins rather than people who themselves belong to these communities.” The feminist site Jezebel has since published a comprehensive rebuttal to Gossett’s initial allegations.
France’s documentary has received positive reviews from the mainstream media. According to Gossett, her film is still scheduled to premiere next year. But the online debate continues around who has the right to tell Marsha P Johnson’s story.
LONDON (Reuters) – A black model who appeared in a Dove advert denounced as racist by many social media users has defended the clip, saying that far from belittling black women it celebrated ethnic diversity.
Lola Ogunyemi unwittingly found herself at the centre of an international furore over a 3-second video posted on Dove’s U.S. Facebook page which showed her removing her t-shirt to reveal a white woman, who then took hers off to reveal an Asian woman.
“I don’t feel it was racist,” she said in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday.
Many Facebook and Twitter users said the clip signalled that white people were cleaner or more beautiful than black people and likened it to 19th century soap adverts that showed black people scrubbing themselves to become white.
But Ogunyemi said the stills from the clip that shot around the internet over the weekend – which mostly showed only her and the white woman, leaving out the Asian woman – gave the wrong impression.
She said there was a 30-second, made-for-TV version that had other images and a slogan that made it much clearer that the intention was to say that all women deserved quality products.
“The screenshots that have taken the media by storm paint a slightly different picture,” she said.
Dove apologised for the Facebook clip, saying it had “missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully”.
Ogunyemi, who is Nigerian, born in Britain and raised in the United States, said in an article in the Guardian that she had “grown up very aware of society’s opinion that dark-skinned people, especially women, would look better if our skin were lighter”.
Far from fitting into this narrative, she wrote, her participation in the Dove advert was a chance to “represent my dark-skinned sisters in a global beauty brand”.
She said Dove could have defended itself by better explaining the concept behind the clip.
However, she also said that Dove should have spotted the risk that the sequence of images could be interpreted as racist given that it had run into trouble over similar content in the past.
“They should have strong teams there that can point this kind of thing out before it goes to air,” she told the BBC.
Dove, a Unilever brand, was criticised in 2011 over an ad which showed three women side by side in front of a before-and-after image of cracked and smooth skin, with a black woman on the “before” side and a white woman on the “after” side.
Another point of contention was a label on a Dove product that said it was for “normal to dark skin”.
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Alison Williams
The Georgia police lieutenant who said cops “only kill black people” during a traffic stop, will be fired, the police chief said Thursday.
“I have known Lt. (Greg) Abbott for years and perceived him as honorable, but he’s made a mistake,” Cobb County Police Chief Mike Register said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t know what is in his heart, but I know what came out of his mouth. We recommend that he be terminated and we are moving forward on that.”
During a DUI stop last month, Abbott was recorded on dash-cam video telling the driver, “Remember, we only kill black people.”
The officer’s statement was in response to the driver telling the lieutenant she was afraid to move her hands because she had “just seen way too many videos of cops…”
“But you’re not black,” Abbott said to the driver. “Remember, we only shoot black people. Yeah. We only kill black people, right? All the videos you’ve seen, have you seen the black people get killed?”
Shortly after we broke the news of this decision, many members of the tech community stepped up to donate to Black Girls Code. Since last Saturday, when Slack Head of Communication Design Kristy Tillman donated $1,000 and shared the screenshot of her donation with her 12,000-plus followers on Twitter, Black Girls Code has raised over $154,000 from PayPal donations, Bryant told me today.
That figure will be much higher once Bryant takes into account the donations Black Girls Code has received via employer matching and other sources. Although Bryant could not give me an exact number, she said she could give me a broad range of $10K to $30K more.
“We are still getting information to folks for matching donations, gifts from donor-advised funds, and even stock transfers,” she told me. “So it’s hard to gather a hard number right now on this portion of the funding but this is the range I would estimate.”
Bryant says she plans to use the money to further support the general Black Girls Code program. The organization’s mission is to help change the face of the technology industry by introducing young black girls to coding. It accomplishes this through a series of workshops, hackathons and summer camps.
At the time, Bryant referenced Uber’s shaky history and the company’s ways of operating as playing a role in her decision to turn it down. She went on to say that Uber’s offer to Black Girls Code felt a “a bit tone-deaf to really addressing real change in how they are moving towards both inclusion and equity.” Ultimately, Bryant said it felt like a PR move, so she turned it down.
Uber, of course, does have a bit of a brand problem due to sexual harassment allegations, the way members of its leadership team violated the privacy of a rape victim, the lawsuit with Waymo, a secret software program called Greyball and more.
Just yesterday, Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi spoke at an all-hands meeting about his plans to take Uber public within the next three years, and the importance of culture and change.
Lil Yachty probably didn’t know it … but the cops who pulled him over hail from the same police department that recently fired a lieutenant caught on dash cam video saying, “We only kill black people.”
Cobb County police tell TMZ … the rapper was driving his Bentley coupe Wednesday in Mableton, GA where a motorcycle cop was stationed with radar gun in hand. We’re told Yachty’s whip registered well above the 45 MPH speed limit for ticket No. 1.
When the officer approached Yachty’s car, we’re told the cop also saw Yachty not wearing his seat belt — ticket No. 2. All in all, dude could be looking at over $300 in fines along with a mandatory court appearance in his future.