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Twitter tests automatic translations in Brazil

It has rolled out to a small number of Android and iOS users in the country.
Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon
August 11, 2020
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Karl Tapales via Getty Images

Some Twitter users in Brazil may be seeing a timeline that’s purely in Brazilian Portuguese even if they’re following accounts that usually tweet in other languages. That’s because Twitter has started testing automatic translations in the region “to make it easier to understand the conversations [they] follow.” In a blog post by Twitter Brazil, the company said the feature will be on by default for a limited number of users on both iOS and Android. While Twitter already has a translation feature, users still have to click or tap a tweet to activate it.

Twitter divided the testers in two different groups likely in an effort to see which format would be better received. One group will see all tweets in their preferred language, and similar to Facebook’s automatic translations, participants have to click on a tweet to see it in its original form. The other group will see both the original and the translated text in one tweet. Both groups will know they’re looking at translations, though, because tweets will be marked with “Translated from [language] by Google” or “Translated from [language] by Microsoft.”

While Twitter says the feature can help users stay on top of what’s relevant, automatic translations can be wildly inaccurate at times. Back in 2017, a Palestinian man was arrested after Facebook translated the caption he used for a photo of him next to a bulldozer to “attack/hurt them.” His caption actually said “good morning.” Just a couple of weeks ago, Facebook had to issue an apology after an English post by the Thai PBS network about the King’s birthday read like an insult in the automatic Thai translation.

It’s unclear if the experimental feature can be switched off in its current form, but users can change their language preferences in settings. Twitter says that it can expand the feature’s availability to other users in Brazil and other countries in the future, depending on how the test does.

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