back to article Microsoft redfaced after Bing translation cockup enrages Saudis

A snafu with the translation engine in Microsoft's Bing search engine has landed Redmond in hot water with the Saudi authorities. Over the weekend, Saudi Arabian users found that when they typed the Arabic word Daesh – the name of the medieval terror bastards currently losing their battle for a caliphate in the Middle East – …

  1. Youngone Silver badge

    And?

    Not sure what the problem is. Sounds like an accurate translation to me.

    Also: it's a very sore point for the Saudis, who are fighting a proxy war against the Daesh-bags in Yemen.

    But funding them in Syria?

    1. Dead Parrot

      Re: And?

      Indeed. This the closest Bing's got to an accurate translation in years.

      1. james 68

        Re: And?

        Ahh, but it's one of those "hidden truths" that the majority of Western governments would rather that the common people not know. So long as they supply cheap oil and splash cash on campaign funds they can terrorise whoever they like and get away with it.

        1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

          Re: And?

          Not to mention splashing the cash on vast quantities of arms from the west. Any time the UK gov says it's going to raise the issue of human rights / bombing the shit out of civilians in Yemen / sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan with the Saudis, you know that what they really mean is that it will urge them to buy more hardware to keep the arms factories running.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And?

          "Ahh, but it's one of those "hidden truths" that the majority of Western governments would rather that the common people not know."

          It's not that it's ever been a "hidden" truth; it's an open secret that anyone who actually pays attention to the Middle East would know.

          Rather, it's the blatant elephant in the room that goes unaddressed because it's in virtually no mainstream Western politician's interest to draw attention to the issue. No conspiracy required- quite the opposite. Just a bunch of individual countries and policitians who each know which side their bread's buttered and that there is absolutely nothing to be gained by rocking the boat (which would ultimately hurt them as much as their opponents).

          So we get the transparently one-sided consensus from politicians and statesmen that Saudi Arabia is the West's ally against terrorism while ignoring the fact that not only have they tolerated and supported those same terrorists and their ideology, but that Saudi Arabia was the primary source of this poisonous ideology- and many of the problems with terrorism in the Middle East- in the first place.

          Saudi Arabia is a Janus-faced entity in this respect. The Royal Family has long tolerated such terrorists, fundamentalists et al within its ranks in a deal-with-the-devil manner attempt to remain in power. Indeed, it may be argued that the country was fundamentally built on such an understanding.

          They tolerated such behaviour and extremism as long as it was kept outwith the country and not a direct threat towards them. Now it looks like this may be breaking down on the side of the extremists, but as I said, this was always a deal with the devil.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And?

            It is of course interesting that the UK took a very similar line towards 'extremists' at the turn of the 20th Century and beyond. London was a sanctuary of both benign and other activists.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: And?

              "It is of course interesting that the UK took a very similar line towards 'extremists' at the turn of the 20th Century and beyond. London was a sanctuary of both benign and other activists."

              To some extent it's a bet hedging exercise. Do you condemn the "terrorists" or support the "freedom fighters"? Which term you choose to use might depend on who you think might win in the end amongst other considerations.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              WTF?

              Re: And?

              There's a world of difference between keeping your enemies close* and supplying them with money and arms**.

              *generally regarded as a shrewd manoeuvre.

              **standard US foreign policy.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: And?

                That's not true! The US doesn't supply our enemies with money and arms!

                Selling them arms, however...

                1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Doctor_Wibble
      Mushroom

      Re: And?

      The problem is that instead of trying to get it corrected and make things right, the first response was to start the negative waves of an angry twitbook petition group thing whose only purpose is to feed itself with more negative waves.

      A disturbingly accurate reflection of the real world.

  2. Michael Hoffmann
    Meh

    Easy mistake to make?

    Looking at the financial and ideological roots of IS/Daesh in the Wahhabite state, it could fall under "loose translation".

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Easy mistake to make?

      Fairly accurate translation may be more accurate.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Easy mistake to make?

        It might be a fairly accurate translation given the history... but it's a bad bit of PR for the Sauds who like to play both ends. I'm not sure why the US is such good "friends" with them other than some black stuff that gets pumped out of the ground. There always seemed to be too high a price to pay (and not dollars) for an oil company's profit.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Easy mistake to make?

          > I'm not sure why Europe (e.g. Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, etc.), China, Japan, India, and S. Korea are such good "friends" with them ...

          FTFY.

          Most of the oil the US imports comes from Canada, 3x what it imports from Saudi Arabia.[1]

          Europe as a whole imports as much, if not more than the US[2]. Some of it probably comes from the North Sea (not sure if that counts as imported?). And the rest?

          So–– Pot, Kettle, Black.

          [1] https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_epc0_im0_mbblpd_a.htm

          [2] http://www.indexmundi.com/g/r.aspx?v=93&t=25

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Easy mistake to make?

            Saudis hate the Iranians, therefore the Americans like the Saudis

            Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq AKA ISIS hate the Iranians so the Saudis like ISIS

            See also Churchill/Stalin and Thatcher/Pinochet

            1. NotBob

              Re: Easy mistake to make?

              They keep forgetting "the enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more, no less."

              Send them to read the 70 maxims again.

        2. Sebastian A

          Re: Easy mistake to make?

          "We don't negotiate with terrorists...we simply pay whatever price they set for their oil."

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Easy mistake to make?

          " I'm not sure why the US is such good "friends" with them other than some black stuff that gets pumped out of the ground."

          Let's face it - if it weren't for the black stuff in the ground, the West wouldn't give a flying fuck what the camel jockeys were doing, who they were killing, or how many veils their women had to wear in public. And once all that magical black stuff is pumped out of their ground, they'll quickly revert to being a third-world shit-hole again, and can go back to killing each other without threat of Western interference.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Easy mistake to make?

            "And once all that magical black stuff is pumped out of their ground, they'll quickly revert to being a third-world shit-hole again, and can go back to killing each other without threat of Western interference."

            Unlike most of the "West" most of the big Arab oil producers are planning and investing for that time. Massive investment in property and industry all over the world and huge investments in local tourism industry. That may or may not be a long term solution, it depends on how well they manage it. Or if just the top dogs cream off the top and leave the rest of the people to fight over what's left.

            1. JLV Silver badge

              Re: Easy mistake to make?

              Saudi may be investing but their per capita income is near Mexico. Long term, a country needs skilled people to be rich (Wealth of Nations), but Saudi hasn't really figured that out. Skilled or hard jobs are mostly expats. Couple that with a religious drive to have as many children as possible and a parasitic nobility. Then take a govt which coopts a particularily nasty strain of Islam, Wahhabism, and gives its clerics free reign as long as "King by the Grace of Allah" is religious dogma.

              9/11? Mostly Saudis citizens. Mosques in France? Unwisely left to be financed by Saudi in the 80s and 90s. Pakistan & Taliban? Saudi money. Bin Laden. Whatever fuckups they are up to in Yemen?

              If you tell me Norway is cleverly investing for post-oil, sure. Saudi? Hahahahaha. The cleverer of the princes are probably just lining their nest eggs. And it's not that much of a surprise that their subjects are cranky.

              IMHO we'd have a generally less problematic Islam if some more competent, gentler, folk were living around the Muslim holy sites or if they had no oil $ to corrupt everyone else with.

              p.s. to be fair there was a string of terrorism against the House of Saud 6-8 yrs ago that somewhat opened their eye that their crap wasn't just everyone else's problem.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: Easy mistake to make?

                So you mean Saudi oil wealth hasn't trickled down to make the man on the street of Riyadh wealthy?

                You'll be telling me that the billion $ bonuses to Wall St hedge fund managers hasn't improved the lot of Walmart greeters in Arkansas next

  3. Dr Scrum Master

    Bing has a translation function?

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Happy

      @Dr Scrum Master

      "Bing has a translation function?"

      FTFY

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: @Dr Scrum Master

        I've upvoted that because it made me laugh, but to be fair, Bing scores a win (here in the UK) for the OS maps.

        1. 080
          Happy

          Re: @Dr Scrum Master

          Get the real thing here:

          https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/opendata/viewer/

          1. ChrisC

            Re: @Dr Scrum Master

            Not sure what exactly you'd consider fake/false/otherwise not-real about the OS maps provided via Bing... The OpenData site is certainly a useful addition to the online mapping resources we enjoy in the UK, but if you want free access to the Explorer/Landranger map data then the OS isn't the place to go.

          2. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: @Dr Scrum Master

            Ordnance Survey's OpenData Viewer is rubbish, IMO.

            Edit: ChrisC's answer provides a good explanation as to why. When I said OS maps, I should probably mentioned the specific map type I was talking about.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      MSFT have record of thesaurus errors going back a long way. In their Latino Spanish Word 95 'Mexican' used to generate 'Thief', 'scum' and 'parasite', Nowadays it just generates 'cannibal' for Mexican Indian while 'Lesbians' is equated with "pervert" and "depraved person". "Western" returns 'Aryan', "civilised' and "white".

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Happy

        @macjules

        Google translate has been equally poisoned several times since users are able to "correct" the translations. Earlier this year Russia was translated as Mordor, and the Clitoris Festival was a delightful snafu. :-)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boycoting Microsoft ?

    They don't have the balls for that! I wonder who would have such precious items that would allow them to tell Microsoft to shove it off.

  5. Chairo
    Coat

    Looks like someone had a botnet

    and made it create "suggestions".

    How do they say - a million bots can't be wrong, right?

    1. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Re: Looks like someone had a botnet

      NIcely illustrates the dangers of "crowdsourcing". Actually, bots are not even needed, if you can motivate lots of volunteers to carry out the hack. This technique has already been used to smear people in Google searches.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Looks like someone had a botnet

        Yes, i came here to same the same thing. It's not as if we don't have many years of experience of using "crowd sourced" data and the perils of not keeping a good overview of it, possibly with clear warnings to end users on the possible inaccuracy of said data/results.

  6. Big-nosed Pengie

    MS gets it right for once

    and all three of its users in Saudi Arabia are unhappy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MS gets it right for once

      I'm surprised the House of Saud allows their subjects ANY access to western sites. What if their kept women find out there's a world full of women NOT wearing burqas 'out there?' They might start getting ideas. It's well-known that women cannot be allowed to choose their own ways.

      Without firm guidance (from men), women tend to corrupt Allah-fearing Muslim men and make them weak.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: MS gets it right for once

        "What if their kept women find out"

        That's why religion is perfect for oppression, why go to the effort of direct oppression, create a set of laws from on high, and people will oppress themselves sticking to them, they'll even be proud of them, fight for the right to follow them and campaign against any source of information that has a differing viewpoint to be removed.

        Also true for US bible belt and any other regressive region you might think of.

        1. Esme

          Re: MS gets it right for once

          @Telwaz - y'know it's often made me wonder whether the people - and the men in particular - in cultures were women are expected to cover up so thoroughly realise that what it's saying to the rest of the world is 'our men are so weak-minded that they can't control themselves sufficiently to behave civilly if there is more than just feamle faces and hands on display'. What makes it almost funny is that these are generally cultures with a hugely 'macho' attitude, yet they can't see that they're presenting themselves as having about the level of self control of an young western culture lad that's just hit puberty.

          It's a crying shame that that kind of thing has become identified, in many peoples minds, with a major religion, because it is NOT a requirement of Islam - and indeed there are Muslim cultures where women are not expecte dto cover-up so extensively, plus if you look at photos of women in many Middle Eastern cities from the 50's and 60's you'll see a quite different scene to nowadays, women looking fairly westernised, aside from wearing headscarves way more often than Westerners do. I wouldn't have any problems wearing a headscarf so as not to offend local mores if I visited a country where that was the norm for women, but any place that expects women to cover-up entirely isn't going to be seeing my tourist money.

          The irony of men with so little self-control (as those where they expect women to fully cover-up) then going on to be control freaks where their female relatives are concerned is beyond parody, out the other side, and well into sinister territory. Time for them to grow up and join the civilised world IMO. Most folk wouldn't think adolescents should be allowed to run entire countries, so why do some think it's OK to run a country with people with an adolescent mindset?

          As the late, great Dave Allen said 'Go in peace, and may your god, go with you'.

      3. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: MS gets it right for once

        "I'm surprised the House of Saud allows their subjects ANY access to western sites."

        Oh come on - have you seen any Arabic porn? It's rubbish ... youporn and the rest of the Western sites have much better porn, so the Saudis can't cut off access to Western Internet sites without starting riots.

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: MS gets it right for once

          "Arabic porn?"

          - Let me guess, 3 'b's - BJs, burkhas and bukkake? (burkinis if they are innovative, as they are bleugh 'trending' just now).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MS gets it right for once

          > "have you seen any Arabic porn?"

          No, but I'll wager camels figure in it somewhere.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: MS gets it right for once

        "I'm surprised the House of Saud allows their subjects ANY access to western sites. What if their kept women find out there's a world full of women NOT wearing burqas 'out there?'

        If you've ever flown out of Saudi you'd have seem most of the younger women, especially the teen girls make a mad dash for the on-board toilets as soon as the plane is officially out of Saudi airspace. They arrive back at the seats in vest tops and miniskirts and covered in makeup ready for their holiday. They know what is out there.

  7. frank ly

    Use established references

    "... the error occurred because Bing Translator has a crowdsourcing function ..."

    They should have used an Urban Dictionary lookup. Oh, maybe they did?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Use established references

      Don't worry, Microsoft. It was just a couple of lads from Mossad having some fun with you on a quiet Friday night.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Use established references

      Maybe the got the info from Wikipedia?

  8. Mikel

    Red-faced?

    To be red-faced they would have to have shame, which is contrary to the available evidence.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Daesh and blast!

    Abdul, roll out the confected outrage!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure what is stranger, that they made this mistake or that there are enough people using Bing to notice it.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      I would not call that a mistake

      That is a very accurate translation.

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge
      Holmes

      They must have gained a certain amount of market from the Win10/Edge combo being rammed down folks throats - all those opportunities to change the default browser/search provider...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        For real. This Edge/Bing (seriously, Bing still) push is maybe the most annoying land grab in MSFT history. I hope it backfires. Satya's new Microsoft, gentle words of wisdom as they push a fire hose down your throat. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  11. J J Carter Silver badge
    Alien

    Think on

    This is a message from All'ah. He is angry at the US for bombing his people in his lands in Syria

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Think on

      Note that there are people more critical of Microsoft than el Reg & co.

  12. David Roberts Silver badge

    Crowd sourced?

    Perhaps the same crowd which gave Melbourne a discreet shove northward?

  13. Baldy50
    Unhappy

    Google gets it right!

    Prissy Daesh bags!

  14. Cari
    Trollface

    Red faced?

    Oh I doubt that. smuganimegirl.gif is more like it, I'm sure.

  15. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Stop

    PR stunt

    First Bing maps, now Bing translate ... nobody was using any of those services before, and bad PR is PR, after all ... now, people know those services exist ... the sad news is, nobody uses bing, so nobody will know how to get to them ... there is only so much bad PR you can do until the crowd goes meh ...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: PR stunt

      "the sad news is, nobody uses bing, so nobody will know how to get to them"

      Apart from all those who chose/were forced/were tricked into using Win10 where it's not all that easy for Joe Average to figure out who to stop using Bing as the default and how to keep switching it off every time a Windows update resets the options back to default or still think Cortana is cool.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm...

    As a military colleague once said to me, 'Saudia Arabia *is* what happens when ISIS becomes an actual state.'

    Perhaps simply the case of 'the truth hurts'?

    Never thought I'd say this - but - bravo Bing!

  17. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Wasn't so long ago...

    ..that Google Translate translated an adjacent Finnish town to me, Kempele as Ghaziabad. Took 'em some years to fix it.

  18. Chris G Silver badge

    A shame

    That the Saudis miss most of the Daesh targets in Yemen and manage to hit the schools, hospitals, civilians and infrastructures.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: A shame

      They're probably using Bing maps...

  19. Bloakey1

    Load of Rubbish.

    What a load of old twaddle.

    Daesh does not actually mean what you say it does i.e. "the name of the medieval terror bastards". Daesh is a word in its own right and it is a pejorative Arabic word that means a group that impose their ways and will on other people. When the West was calling ISIS ISIS, the Arabs were using a bit of word play and calling them Daesh. Slowly but surely the West caught on and they are all calling them Daesh nowadays.

    Soooo, do not forget that it is a word (not an acronym) in its own right and could easily be applied about Fanbois, Christians and yes even Saudi's.

  20. Bumpy Cat

    A point of clarification

    Saudi Arabia is not bombing Daesh in Yemen. As a previous comment has pointed out, ISIS is not that far, ideologically, from the government of Saudi Arabia (and if you go back to the formation of the Saudi state from 1800 - 1940 there are some interesting parallels).

    Nothing lines up perfectly, but what is happening in Yemen is part of the larger Saudi-Iran conflict. Saudi Arabia is supporting the Sunni-ish government against the Houthi (Shia-ish, therefore Iran-backed) rebels, who themselves are largely a tool of the previous Yemeni president.

    Meanwhile in Iraq and Syria ...

  21. Revelationman

    An Arab nation as powerful as Saudi Arabia a nation that human rights record is well non-existent screams big companies listen, and countries also, we now see were the world evolves around

    I would say nothing just oops,

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Considering they want to behead and crucify a kid for attending a democracy rally Bing got it absolutely right. Saudi Arabia = taliban with money.

  23. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Crowdsourcing.

    Positive side: It's free.

    Negative side: You get exactly what you paid for.

    When using crowdsourced data, always be aware that it's a matter of when, not if, that massive fuckup happens.

  24. s. pam
    Mushroom

    If the truth hurts,

    Then suck it up Saudi Arabia and clean your damn house out! You've got enough weapons from the UK and USA to do so about 1,000 times over!

  25. adam payne Silver badge

    I'm not sure what's stranger, the fact that this happened or the fact that people still use Bing.

  26. Jame_s

    1) people actually use bing?

    2) "microsoft" translates to "shonky beta test" in arabic. and french. and german. and english. and......

  27. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Trollface

    living/dying by political correctness

    it's funny to see a company like Microsoft shooting their own foot, because they're always being SO 'politically correct', practically demanding it in their forums [banning those who don't follow the Win-10-nic mantra, for example] and let us NOT forget their OWN NEWS NETWORK, [P]MSNBC, the home of 'Triangle-Head' (aka Rachel Maddow) and 'Dough Boy' (Chris Matthews). Or some of the wording in MShaft's latest EULA's for the 'microsoft logon' or any of their online services...

    As for me, I would've immediately changed the translation of 'Saudi Arabia' to "Bite Me", trolled all of social media to make sure everyone saw it, then "apologize" and change it back.

  28. anoco

    Very Disapointed

    El Reg let me down! I set up a news alert for the words Microsoft and Blunder, and all I get is this??

    It's been six days since I last enjoyed the MS Bash crowd and this "news" is a pitiful attempt to revive that joy.

    Come on guys, don't tease us like that. Give us only the full monty when it comes to MS blunders not every little microblunder.

  29. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "... a crowdsourcing function... ...over 1,000..."

    1. Microsoft = stupid

    2. Microsoft = stupid

    ...

    999. Microsoft = stupid

    1000. Microsoft = stupid

    1001. Microsoft = stupid

    Same crowdsourcing fools that had Melbourne off the coast of China last week.

    Time to 'Marblecake The Game' these guys, big time.

    Chair. Popcorn. 3, 2, 1, Go.

  30. Crafty volt 7

    Wunderbar!!

    Their camels offend me something horrid..

  31. Ripper38
    Coat

    People=Shit

    "...the error occurred because Bing Translator has a crowdsourcing function – if a large group of people (he estimated over a thousand) suggest a translation, then it becomes listed as a possible answer"

    Oh, so now it's the translators' fault? Blaming anonymous crowdsourcing resources is a lame excuse and just proves that:

    a) Somebody or some “thing”, in the house that Bill built, isn’t doing their or its job, either that or they’re extremely naive not to have red flagged certain , say, TLA org sensitive words and let translations go through unchecked

    b) Somebody or some “thing” at Bing Translator doesn’t check or clean-up the terminology base (MTs can do that today)

    b) Some wicked, wicked trolls are pissing themselves with laughter. Imagine, today Daesh, tomorrow the Drumpf… the world (of Bing) is my oyster, and

    c) That sarcasm and irony identification thing still needs working on.

    Mine's the one with the copy of Slipknot's Iowa album in the pocket

  32. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    The Saudi Arabian royal family are a bunch of crooks and terrorists. In their country I'd be beheaded for typing that. They need to grow the fuck up and brush it off and stop looking like extremists every time someone does something they slightly don't like. That's why so many people just associate Islam with terrorism. I'm not saying I do, but that's a popular misconception.

  33. EarthDog

    The wisdom of crowds

    outsource it to unvetted unpaid volunteers and see what you get.

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