Benjamin Haas “China's WeChat app translates 'black foreigner' to N-word” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/13/chinas-wechat-app-translates-black-foreigner-to-n-word
WeChat, which has almost 900 million users, blamed the use of the racial slur on an error in the artificial intelligence software that translates between Chinese and English.
The issue was first noticed by an American living in Shanghai, Ann James, when her friend discussed being late in Chinese in a group chat. James used WeChat’s built-in translation feature, which produced the message: “The nigger is late.”
“If you’re a black person in China, you’ve come up against some craziness,” James told the news website Sixth Tone, adding that she is frequently touched and photographed in public. “I know there’s a lot of curiosity and a lot of ignorance about black people.”*1
In subsequent tests, users found the app used the racial slur almost exclusively in negative contexts, including with the words late, lazy, and thief. But in many neutral sentences the word – hei laowai in Chinese – was translated into English as its literal meaning of “black foreigner”.
“We’re very sorry for the inappropriate translation,” a WeChat spokesman told local media. “After receiving users’ feedback, we immediately fixed the problem.” Tests by the Guardian showed the translation software had been retooled and no longer produced racial slurs.
Last year a television advert for laundry detergent showed a black man covered in paint going into a washing machine and coming out as an sparkling Asian man. The video went viral around the world and caused outrage for its insensitive messaging*2.
Over the summer China’s state news agency published a video during a border standoff with India featuring an offensive parody of a Sikh man, complete with a turban and fake beard*3.
“WeChat in Racism Storm, Translates 'Black Foreigner' into N-Word” http://www.thatsmags.com/shenzhen/post/20888/wechat-translates-black-foreigner-into-n-word
“UPDATE: WeChat Removes Offensive Translation, Apologizes” http://www.thatsmags.com/shanghai/post/20893/update-wechat-removes-offensive-translation-apologizes
*1:Qian Jinghua “WeChat Apologizes for Translating ‘Black Foreigner’ as N-Word” http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1000991/wechat-apologizes-for-translating-black-foreigner-as-n-word
*3:See Nyshka Chandran “Racist video from China's official press agency mocks Indians” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/17/chinese-media-xinhua-mocks-indians-and-pm-narendra-modis-policies-in-racist-video.html