Google Translate Erroneously Turns 'Russian Federation' Into 'Mordor'


Here’s the thing about Google Translate: it is not perfect, and the method it uses to essentially crowdsource the data behind any given translation isn’t always correct. The perfect example of this is a recent string of particularly poor translations when going from Ukrainian to Russian which included the particularly amusing error of changing “Russian Federation” into “Mordor,” the fictional home of the evil Sauron in Lord of the Rings.

That’s not the only problematic Ukrainian-to-Russian translation. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, became "sad little horse” and “Russians” reportedly became “occupiers.” Why did it do this? Well, because Google designed it to do that, basically.

"Google Translate is an automatic translator — it works without the intervention of human translators, using technology instead,” The Independent quotes a Google spokesperson as saying in a statement. “When Google Translate generates a translation, it looks for patterns in hundreds of millions of documents to help decide on the best translation for you.”

So, basically, the “patterns in hundreds of millions of documents” decided that the “best translation” of the Ukrainian version of “Russian Federation” into Russian was actually “Mordor.” Speculation points to the protests in Ukraine of Russian operations as the ultimate culprit, effectively poisoning the data well from which Google Translate then drank deep.

The translation issue arose Jan. 4 and has since reportedly been fixed, but it’s a good example of how our algorithmic future isn’t always going to run smoothly without the helping hands of actual humans.

Source: Ars Technica

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