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Major translation website gives antisemitic, racist, sexist explanations of words

Source: 20minutes

Reverso, a popular translation application that gathers open source content from millions of real-life texts, could face accusations of not doing enough to filter antisemitic content after the sample sentence, “Hitler was a lot nicer to the Jews than they deserved,” was discovered on its website.

When translating the French phrase, “plus gentil” to English, Reverso provides examples of “nicer” written in sentence format. The top example offered reads, “Hitler was a lot nicer to the Jews than they deserved.”

There is also an option to hear the sample sentence spoken aloud, with a bot saying the words many would classify as virulent, antisemitic hate speech.

An additional problematic translation occurs when translating “Zionism,” with the top sentence example reading “You did not mention the cancer of Zionism” and another declaring “Zionism has been planning for domination over the world since its famous conference held at Basle, Switzerland in 1897.”

However, because Reverso translations are the result of big data algorithms which organize source texts, their content can be shaped by discriminatory, racist, and otherwise pernicious language or ideas.

Reverso’s founder Theo Hoffenberg told i24NEWS: “Reverso recovers billions of different language phrases from different sites and from movies.”

“Inside this very large corpus, we filter on the basis of key words. There is no filter on whether what is said is good or not,” Hoffenberg said.

The site’s creator noted that this particular translation was especially bad luck. “Normally it does not happen. This is the first time we have had such a horrible example that stands out.”

The example, however, will not be deleted immediately.

“We do not current have a mechanism to report incorrect examples, which we delete at each new cycle, every month or every two months. We will be able to fix it by the end of next week,” Hoffenberg said.

Machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence (AI) on which apps like Reverso are based, allows systems to constantly and automatically develop without being explicitly programmed.

When it comes to human prejudice, machine learning shows how systems can mimic the antisemitism and racism flowing freely across the internet.

As more applications and public systems are being based on algorithms that allow their operators to filter through massive quantities of information, there is concern that chatbots and other AI applications will reflect the ugliest aspects of humanity.