With all of the news about hacked e-mail accounts, it isn’t a big surprise that other Google services can be manipulated, too. Yesterday, politicking or pranking Russian translators forced a Google Translate mistranslation of four segments — “USA is to blame,” “Russia is to blame,” “Obama is to blame,” and “Medvedev is to blame” into English from Russian (click here to see a screenshot).
Google Переводчик (Translator) made the U.S. and President Obama blameless in the Russian translation (”USA is not to blame,” and “Obama is not to blame”, while placing blame on Russia and President Medvedev. Naturally, soon after the news went up, Google quickly fixed the translations.
According to Moscow News:
The same is true if the word combination is translated into Ukrainian and Belorussian. However, if the output translation is set to Spanish, French, German, and other European languages, it is translated correctly. […]
"These are translation bombs" said Alla Zabrovskaya, Google's Russian Public Relations Director. "We are not always able to weed them out, and it is good that our users find them, and let us know about them.
But the question that remains is: how many more of those mistranslations (or “translation bombs” as they call them) exists in the Google translation engine (or any others automatic translation engine)? Some of them should be very easy to spot (such as translation “White House” with “ Visit myspamsite.com”) but others will be spotted only through careful analysis of the translation.
The lessons learned here:
- Crowdsourcing applications need protection against malicious manipulation because the wisdom of the crowd will more and more reflect the politics of its members.
- Online translation applications are only as reliable as the crowd that feeds them. You should therefore never use those applications to translate important documents or messages. “Machine translation” is only useful to grasp the general meaning of a piece of content but nothing more.
- If you need real professional translations, you should work with a real translation provider. Unlike automatic translation engines, they have the ability to garantee you that your message will be the same in every language.
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