A cursory search on Google Translate made by a person who arrived in Israel today and googled the information in Hebrew revealed that the application translated this from Hebrew as “I arrived in Palestine.” The incident, which went viral on Facebook, sparked significant protests online from users who were incensed that Google Translate seemingly does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty. Yet a short time later Google indeed fixed the translation and wrote “I arrived in Israel” for the same words in Hebrew.
One person who had originally spread the mistranslation, Hillel Fuld, now complimented Google on their prompt correction of the site :
“Thank you Google for listening and acting.
Guess you’re not so evil after all.
Now, can everyone calm themselves?”
Fuld was making a salient point, since the first reaction of many readers was to accuse Google of some anti-Semitic bias for their translation but in the end it was probably a glitch on the part of the computer program and not necessarily a political statement on the part of Google Translate.
As a matter of interest, I clicked “I arrived in Shechem” in Hebrew, to which Google Translate responded “I arrived in Nablus”. This is understandable, since the world does not know Shechem by its biblical name and therefore it is not recognized as such. However when I clicked “I arrived in Elon Moreh”, the computer knew the name since it is a place on the map with that name, even though it is in a disputed territory.
It therefore seems that Fuld is right in stating that the internet may have its positive sides but can also spread unnecessarily negative messages as well.