US immigration uses Google Translate to scan people’s social media for ‘bad’ posts

This is not a good idea. And in contravenes Google’s own advice — which is that anyone using its translation technology add a disclaimer that translated text may not be accurate.

According to a report from ProPublica, USCIS uses these tools to help evaluate whether refugees should be allowed into the US. In so doing, agency personnel are putting their trust in an untrustworthy algorithm to make entry decisions that may have profound consequences for the health and welfare of those seeking admission to the country.

“The translation of these social media posts can mean life or death for refugees seeking to reunite with their family members,” said Betsy Fisher, director of strategy for the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP),” in an email to The Register. “It is dangerous to rely on inadequate technology to inform these unreasonable procedures ostensibly used to vet refugees.”

To demonstrate the inaccuracy of Google Translate, ProPublica asked Mustafa Menai, who teaches Urdu at the University of Pennsylvania, to translate a Twitter post written in Urdu. By Menai’s estimation, an accurate English translation would be, “I have been spanked a lot and have also gathered a lot of love (from my parents).”

Google Translate’s rendering of the post is, “The beating is too big and the love is too windy.”

The moral: Translate is wonderful; but don’t bet your life on it.

Source: The Register