Google Translate got social media talking in Hong Kong after users noticed it was briefly churning out a rather odd suggestion during political violence in central Hong Kong over the government's plan to allow extradition to mainland China. If the extradition bill gets passed by the lawmakers, it would allow suspects to be sent to China for trial.
Google users discovered that when people entered the phrase "I am sad to see Hong Kong become part of China" the suggested translation in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese converted the word "sad" to "happy".
It was not immediately clear what caused the blunder but Danny Sullivan, an official at Google, said in a tweet "we're looking into why we had this translation and expect to have a fix to resolve it soon".
Google Translate uses complex algorithms and deep learning computers, as well as allowing users to make suggested translations to improve accuracy.
"Oh my god, I can't believe my eyes," one Facebook user commented under one of the many screen grabs of the false translation that went viral on Friday.
"The app intentionally mistranslates the English to 'so happy/content' instead of 'so sad'," added student Rachel Wong on Twitter. "I hope Google fixes this."
The error has now been fixed.
Hong Kong has been rocked this week by political violence as protesters opposed to a proposed China extradition law clashed with police.
On Thursday, the popular encrypted messaging app Telegram announced it had suffered a major cyber-attack that originated from China. Telegram is being used by protesters to coordinate.
Hong Kong protesters are seeking to safeguard their identities from potential retaliation by authorities exercising mass data collection and sophisticated facial recognition technology.
Agnes, a second-year college student who declined to give her surname, said she wore a face mask as soon as she left a subway train in the downtown Admiralty district to join Wednesday’s overnight protest by pro-democracy demonstrators.
“Everybody coming out is wearing masks because you don’t know what people will do with the information,” Agnes said as friends nodded in agreement. None of them would give their names, saying they worried about how school authorities would react if Hong Kong or China’s central government asked for information about them.
(With AFP and AP inputs)