WeChat translates 'black foreigner' into racial slur

A picture illustration shows a WeChat app icon in Beijing, December 5, 2013.Image copyright Reuters Image caption WeChat is one of China's most popular apps

Chinese messaging app WeChat has apologised after its software used the N-word as an English translation for the Chinese for "black foreigner".

The company blamed its algorithms for producing the error.

It was spotted by Ann James, a black American living in Shanghai, when she texted her Chinese colleagues to say she was running late.

Ms James, who uses WeChat's translation feature to read Chinese responses, got the reply:"The [racial slur] is late."

Horrified, she checked the Chinese phrase - "hei laowai" - with a co-worker and was told it was a neutral expression, not a profanity.

WeChat acknowledged the error to China-focused news site Sixth Tone[1], saying:"We're very sorry for the inappropriate translation.After receiving users' feedback, we immediately fixed the problem."

The app's software uses artificial intelligence that has been fed huge reams of text to help it pick the best translations.

These are based on context, so it sometimes uses insulting phrases when talking about negative events.

Local outlet That's Shanghai[2] tested the app, and found that when used to wish someone happy birthday, the phrase "hei laowai" was translated as "black foreigner".But when a sentence included negative words like "late" or "lazy," it produced the racist insult.

Almost a billion people use WeChat, which lets users play games, shop online, and pay for things as well as sending messages.It resembles another popular chat app, WhatsApp, but is subject to censorship.

A research group at the University of Toronto analysed the terms blocked on WeChat[3] in March, and found they included "Free Tibet", "Down with the Communist Party", and many mentions of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo[4], who was China's most prominent human rights advocate....


  1. ^ China-focused news site Sixth Tone (www.sixthtone.com)
  2. ^ Local outlet That's Shanghai (www.thatsmags.com)
  3. ^ analysed the terms blocked on WeChat (qz.com)
  4. ^ Liu Xiaobo (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Microwave breakthrough helps boost hard drive sizes

Datacentre server racksImage copyright Reuters Image caption Web giants and large firms rely on cheap hard drives to store information in data centres

The data-storing abilities of hard drives could soon swell to 40 terabytes (TB) and beyond, says Western Digital.

Currently the largest hard disk drive (HDD) that stores data on spinning disks can hold about 14TB of information.

Western Digital said the bigger drives were made possible by finding a way to use microwaves to write data on 3.5in drives.

The first bigger-capacity drives should go on sale in 2019.

Hot stuff

While solid state drives are popular with home users, many large companies and web firms fill data centres with disks that depend on moving parts because, at high capacities, they are much cheaper and last longer.The drives store data on disks or platters that spin at high speed.

A disk with a data capacity of 40 terabytes would be able to hold more than 2,500 two-hour movies encoded at a standard resolution.

Western Digital said it could produce the big drives as it had found a way to increase the density of data recorded on a disk by using microwaves - a technique known as microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR).The company is the first to produce a disk that uses this technology.

An allied method that uses heat instead of microwaves was thought to be the best way to help HDDs grow in capacity but it is known to be an expensive and technically tricky way to boost data density.The resulting devices, whose platters must be regularly heated beyond 400C, can also suffer reliability problems.

Heat-assisted magnetic recording also requires changes in manufacturing plants and the materials used to make the magnetic platters that hold data.By contrast, MAMR requires far fewer changes to manufacturing and works with materials currently used to make HDDs.

In a statement, Western Digital said[1] it had produced prototype MAMR drives this year, and would give engineering samples to key customers in 2018 and start volume production in 2019.By 2025, further refinement of the technology would push capacities past 40TB, it said.

It added that a novel method of boosting data capacities was needed as it was getting harder to squeeze more data into HDDs using existing techniques....


  1. ^ In a statement, Western Digital said (innovation.wdc.com)

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US voices frustration with 'warrant-proof' encryption

US Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinImage copyright Reuters

The US deputy attorney general says the use of "warrant-proof encryption" in popular apps and operating systems, is hampering law enforcement.

Several apps encrypt communications end-to-end, which stop messages being legible if intercepted by criminals or law enforcement.

In a speech, Rod Rosenstein said law enforcers were increasingly thwarted by such encryption.

He met Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Thursday to discuss the issue.

He will also meet the head of the UK's GCHQ intelligence agency.

"Increasingly, the tools we use to collect evidence run up against encryption tools which are designed to defeat them," said Mr Rosenstein, speaking at the Global Cyber Security Summit in London.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWhat is encryption?

He said the United States was "co-ordinating with our foreign partners as to what the challenges are".

With end-to-end encryption, messages are scrambled when they leave the sender's device and are decrypted only on the receiver's device.

It means service providers such as WhatsApp cannot hand over a legible copy of a suspect's messages to law enforcement, because they do not have one.

Mr Rosenstein said technology companies often "resisted co-operating with governments".

Ms Rudd has also described encryption tools used by messaging apps as a "problem".

In August, she met representatives from Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and others at a counter-terrorism forum in San Francisco.

She called on companies to work "more closely" with the government but said she did not want to "weaken encryption"....

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Facebook 'fully committed' to sharing Russian ad data

Sheryl SandbergImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Facebook was stepping up efforts to find and remove fake accounts, said Ms Sandberg

Facebook is "fully committed" to providing detailed information about ads bought in Russia during the US election, says Sheryl Sandberg.

The ads, pages they linked to and who they were targeted at have been given to investigators, said Ms Sandberg.

The ads and the fake accounts used to get them on Facebook had been found and removed, she said.

However, she added, if the ads had been placed by real accounts, Facebook would not have removed them.

Bad actors

"Things happened on our platform in this election that shouldn't have happened," said Ms Sandberg, chief operating officer of the social network in an interview with news site Axios.

"We have an enormous responsibility here," she said, adding that Facebook was "fully co-operating" with official investigators looking into what are believed to be Russian efforts to influence the election.

On 11 October, Ms Sandberg and others from Facebook appeared before US congressional panels looking into reports of Russian interference in the election.

"We think it's important that they get the whole picture and they explain that fully to the American public," she said, adding that once the investigation was concluded and made public, Facebook would provide more information about the ads and how they were used.

Ms Sandberg said that Facebook had stepped up its monitoring systems since the discovery of the wide-ranging ad campaign, which piped more than 3,000 ads on to the social network that were seen by about 10 million people.

Facebook was investing in machine-learning techniques to help spot fake accounts that are being used to spread similar ads to those seen in the 2016 campaign.It had also employed 4,000 people to vet and review content before it was put up on the network.

The site had also taken steps to stop those behind the fake accounts profiting from the ads they put on Facebook, she said.

It also expected to get more information from US intelligence agencies on other "bad actors" and would move to limit their access to Facebook, said Ms Sandberg during the wide-ranging interview.The social network was "aggressively" following up leads it had already been passed.

"We do not want this kind of foreign interference in Facebook," she added."No-one wants that kind of interference."

Expanding on whether the adverts would have been allowed to run if they were posted by real people, Ms Sandberg said the site had no interest in vetting information or curbing free speech as this could set a dangerous precedent.

"When you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all people, she said....

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Facebook bans rapper Lil B for 'hate speech' posts

Rapper Lil BImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Lil B is known for espousing greater tolerance and positivity between races

US rapper Lil B, known for his outspoken views on social media, is facing a 30-day ban under Facebook's hate speech policies.

The musician has expressed anger over the suspension and fans have criticised the ban on Twitter.

Facebook said some of his posts violated its policies on hate speech.

The posts, according to publications with which he later shared the messages, related to white people and gun violence.

Political news website The Hill[1] republished two of the banned posts.

They read:"White people are the only ones who really love they guns U can tell they are violent people!I don't live in fear I don't need a gun - Lil B."

"White people so scared they the reason why guns are a problem if white people put down the gunze we all be safe but nope!They vilent - Lil B."


In 2014, Lil B faced a similar ban.

Facebook is not commenting on the current suspension but the BBC understands that the rapper is alleged to have violated its hate speech policies a number of times.

The social media's community standards page includes a section on reporting abuse and states that the consequences for violating its standards will vary depending on the severity of the violation.

In an interview with tech website Motherboard[2], a Facebook spokeswoman defended its decision saying that the site's hate speech policies apply equally to all races and are "race-neutral"....


  1. ^ The Hill (thehill.com)
  2. ^ Motherboard (motherboard.vice.com)

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