WeChat apologizes after turning 'black foreigner' into racial slur

WeChat apologizes after turning 'black foreigner' into racial slur

Chinese messaging app WeChat has reportedly apologised after an AI error resulted in it translating a neutral Chinese phrase into the n-word. Ann James used the built-in translation feature and the message "the nigger is late", popped up.

"We're very sorry for the inappropriate translation", a WeChat spokesperson told Chinese news site Sixth Tone.

"I know there's a lot of curiosity and a lot of ignorance about black people [in China]", said James, who was quick to emphasize that she loves the country she's called home for five years.

When she checked the Chinese phrase "hei laowai" with a co-worker, she was told it was a neutral expression, not a profanity. "I just think that we need to have more open discussion between Chinese people and black people".

WeChat has now altered the algorithm so the phrase will no longer be translated as the n-word.

"If you're a black person in China, you've come up against some craziness", said James, who recently appeared in Chinese box office smash Wolf Warrior 2.

James said she was pleased by WeChat's response.

According to The Guardian, the app, which serves nearly 900 million users said that the slur was a result of the artificial intelligence software that translates between Chinese and English. Users attempting to translate gender-neutral Turkish sentences for "they are a doctor" and "they are a nurse", for instance, will instead find the service making sexist assumptions and translating the two sentences as masculine and feminine respectively.