Popular Chinese app WeChat received heavy criticism after a user received a message containing the word heilaowai or “black foreigners,” and was translated into racist slurs through the app.
Shanghai-based theater guru Ann James received a message from her colleagues saying “Black foreigners is cool,” and she was startled when WeChat translated the text to “The nigger is still late.”
The in-app translation even includes some racially insensitive suggestions when using phrases such as “Black foreigners strange,” and turns them into offensive phrases such as “A nigger is lazy” or “A nigger is a thief.”
Fortunately, WeChat caught on to the issue and addressed it, stating that it “immediately fixed the problem.” A WeChat spokesperson explained that the app utilizes a “neutral machine translation,” but ensured users that the company will constantly improve its accuracy.
Shanghaiist reported that the issue has indeed been resolved as the word heilaowai now translates to “black foreigner” without any racially insensitive remarks. WeChat has since promised that it will make the app even more “accurate, faithful expressive and elegant.”
This is not the first time the popular Chinese social media app has been surrounded by controversy. In September, WeChat was accused of sharing the private data of its users with the Chinese government.
However, WeChat stated that this was a mere misunderstanding, and that it will only provide information to authorities if the company is “legally compelled to do so, which is in line with international practices.”
The Chinese social media app reiterated that sharing data and invading user privacy “is not and has never been the case,” according to Android Authority.
Featured Image Screenshot via YouTube / WeChat