Google Translate Removes Gay Slurs From Its App, But Why Were They Even There In The First Place?

A picture taken on October 17, 2017 in Lille, shows a figue in front of the Google internet homepage. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

Google found itself in hot water recently when its Google Translate program began translating the word "gay" into offensive terms in foreign languages. On Monday, Google issued an apology for showing gay slurs on its Translate tool, blaming an unfortunate glitch in the system. According to the LGBTQ organization All Out, Google Translate was offering a list of derogatory terms when users typed in the word "gay." Among these terms were "poof," "faggot," and "queen." In a statement on its website, All Out said:

Imagine learning English and being taught to say hateful insults instead of neutral language for 'gay.' Google Translate — used by over 500 million people every month — was suggesting slurs as synonyms for the word.

All Out urged the tech giant to remove the derogatory terms from its Translate app, collecting more than 52,000 signatures as of this week. The organization's campaign worked: Last Friday, Google scrubbed those words from the translating system.

Google issued the following statement to All Out:

As soon as we were informed that some of our translations for certain terms were serving inappropriate results, we immediately began working to fix the issue. We apologize for any offense this has caused people. Our systems produce translations automatically based on existing translations on the web, so we appreciate when users point out issues such as this.

Here's what the Google Translate list of terms for "gay" looked like before it was fixed, via All Out:

"Thousands of us signed the urgent petition and Google heard us," All Out said in the statement. "This is how powerful we are when we stand together." Google "did the right thing" by apologizing and fixing its system immediately, said All Out Executive Director Andre Banks. Banks told ABC News on Tuesday:

It’s important Google is able to provide an accurate translation of these words that describe so many people. We were really glad to see this change happen in hours, not weeks and months.

Google has long been a supporter of gay rights, and it even has its own employee resource program, called "Gayglers," composed of LGBTQ Googlers and their allies. The tech giant was also named the third-best company in America for LGBTQ employees in 2014 by the online jobs community Glassdoor.com.

Images: screenshot/Google Translate, screenshot/All Out

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