A Palestinian man was arrested by Israeli police after posting "good morning" in Arabic on Facebook alongside a photo of him at work.
The man works at a construction site near Jerusalem and was shown leaning against a bulldozer in the post. He was arrested after Facebook's language software incorrectly translated his "good morning" as "attack them" in Hebrew and "hurt them" in English.
No Arabic speakers reviewed the Facebook post before Israeli police arrested the man, reported the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He was detained for several hours before the mistake became clear.
Facebook hastily apologized for the error. “Unfortunately, our translation systems made an error last week that misinterpreted what this individual posted," Necip Fazil Ayan, an engineering manager in Facebook’s language technologies group, told Gizmodo. "We apologize to him and his family for the mistake and the disruption this caused.”
Facebook began using its own machine-learning translation system in 2016. The language technologies department admitted the artificial intelligence software is learning every day, but it remains unclear how the automatic translation service misread the post. Haaretz reported that "any Arabic speaker could clearly see the transliteration did not match the translation.”
The military in the region, the Israeli Defense Forces, uses algorithms to monitor Palestinian social media accounts in order to detect potential terrorist attacks, reported Gizmodo. The mistaken arrest highlights the high-stakes division between Israelis and Palestinians, especially near the occupied West Bank, which is largely controlled by Israeli forces.
The Israeli police noted to Gizmodo that bulldozers have been used in hit-and-run terrorist attacks. The Palestinian man declined to speak with Haaretz about the arrest, and has since deleted the Facebook post.