Israeli Police Arrested Palestinian Due To Facebook Automatic Translation Error

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Israeli Police Arrested Palestinian Due To Facebook Automatic Translation Error

Israeli policemen patrol a street in the Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber following clashes in Jerusalem September 18, 2015. FILE IMAGE: Reuters

The Israel Police mistakenly arrested a Palestinian worker on October 15 because, relying on automatic translation, they thought he had published a Facebook post saying “Hurt them” when what he had really written was “Good morning.”

The man posted the message on his Facebook page on October 15 with an attached photo of him smiling and holding a cup of coffee and a cigarette while standing alongside a bulldozer at a construction site he works at in West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit near Jerusalem.

No Arabic-speaking officer read the post prior to the arrest, which was carried out by officers who relied solely on Facebook’s proprietary automatic translation, Haaretz reported. Arabic speakers explained that 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.

The police acted on the suspicion that the man might use the bulldozer to carry out the threat. After taking him in for questioning, the Judea and Samaria District police realized the mistake and released the man after a few hours.

The man removed the post from his Facebook page after the arrest.

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