Incident 216: WeChat’s Machine Translation Gave a Racist English Translation for the Chinese Term for “Black Foreigner”

Description: The Chinese platform WeChat provided an inappropriate and racist English translation for the Chinese term for “black foreigner” in its messaging app.


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Alleged: WeChat developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed Black WeChat users.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
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Incident Date
Khoa Lam
WeChat Apologizes for Translating ‘Black Foreigner’ as N-Word · 2017

Chinese messaging app WeChat has apologized for an error in its algorithm that provided the N-word as a translation for a neutral Chinese term for black foreigners.

“We’re very sorry for the inappropriate translation,” a WeChat spokesperson…

China's Most Popular App Apologizes After Translating 'Black Foreigner' as the N-Word · 2017

The translation service in China’s biggest messaging app, WeChat, is being retooled after offering a racist slur as a translation for the phrase “black foreigner.”

Ann James, a black theater director based in Shanghai, messaged her colleagu…

China's WeChat app translates 'black foreigner' to N-word · 2017

China’s most popular chat app has apologised after its software used the N-word to translate a Chinese phrase that commonly means “black foreigner”.

WeChat, which has almost 900 million users, blamed the use of the racial slur on an error i…

WeChat translates 'black foreigner' into racial slur · 2017

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 …

WeChat translates 'black foreigner' into the N-word · 2017

WeChat, the Chinese messaging app, has apologised for translating “black foreigner” into the N-word.

It was noticed by Ann James, a black American director and actor who featured in China’s highest-grossing film ever, this summer’s Wolf War…


A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.