Users call for boycott of Microsoft’s search engine, as Bing translates “Daesh” as “Saudi Arabia”
Microsoft Corporation was left red-faced after a bizarre error in its search engine algorithm annoyed the Saudi Arabian kingdom.
Bing Translator, an app enclosed within Microsoft’s Bing search engine, allows internet users to translate over 3 dozen languages. As with every website or translation app, by typing in a word or phrase in a selected language the application renders it in another language.
Over the weekend, Saudi Arabian users found that when they typed the Arabic word “Daesh” into Bing Translate, the words “Saudi Arabia” would appear as the English translation. Apparently, “Daesh” is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
The so-called technical error caused uproar in Saudi Arabia, where representatives of Saudi Arabia’s monarchy along with many Saudi social media users called for a boycott of Bing and Microsoft.
Some took to social media to express their anger.
“The Saudi people in one voice: Bing has been boycotted,” said one tweet.
“This clip shows the translation on the Bing website, unfortunately this is an insult to us and we must boycott them,” said another.
Microsoft’s vice president for Saudi Arabia, Dr Mamdouh Najjar, said: “As an employee of [Microsoft], I apologise personally to the great Saudi people and this country, dear to all our hearts, for this unintentional mistake.”
The Redmond giant claimed that they quickly addressed the issue, and the error is under investigation. “This error has been fixed. We apologize for the mistranslation. Errors like this can happen with automatic translation due to incorrect training data. Our product team fixed the error in the automated translation within hours of learning about it,” Microsoft stated.
The company has also formally issued an apology to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, calling the error “unintentional”.
The error done by Microsoft’s translation service comes at a time when Saudi Arabia is already in hot water over terrorist activity. According to several reports, a number of terrorist groups now belong to or are supported, financed and equipped by the Saudi Arabia, among which is the Islamic State.