Many users of the social media platform will agree that Facebook’s automatic translation leaves a lot to be desired. In this instance, an innocent Palestinian man, who simply wanted to wish his followers a friendly “#Good Morning,” was taken by #Israeli Police as a threat to security. The translation they saw in Hebrew said “hurt them,” leading to his arrest.

Friendly greeting leads to arrest on incitement charges

As reported by RT News, the man is a construction worker by the name of Halawim Halawi, who posted a selfie on October 15, standing next to a bulldozer on a construction site in Beitar Illit settlement. Seen holding a cigarette and a cup of coffee, he smilingly wished his readers a “good morning.”

The Facebook post was not read by an Arabic-speaking officer, but was instead spotted by an officer who relied on the social media platform’s #Automatic Translation tool.

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There is reportedly only a one letter difference between the Arabic phrase “good morning to you all” and the Hebrew phrase “hurt them.” The fact that Halawi was standing next to a bulldozer made things worse, as those vehicles have reportedly been used in past terror attacks. The officer then came to the mistaken assumption that the construction worker was planning an attack.

Palestinian released without charge

A spokeswoman with the West Bank district police confirmed that Halawi was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of incitement. However, he was soon released after the officer’s assumption was found to be false. When police interrogated the Palestinian, he explained the situation and officers realized their error and released him without charge. When the Times of Israel asked Halawi for comment, he declined and has since deleted his Facebook post.

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While it might seem the arrest over a Facebook post was extreme, RT notes that it is an established practice for Israeli police to monitor public social media exchanges in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. This has reportedly led to a number of Palestinians arrested on suspicion of incitement.

Whether Facebook is responding to the translation issue is unknown, but the BBC reports that Google faced similar problems last year with their online translation tool. In one incident, the tool translated the word “Russians” to “occupiers.” In another incident, the Russian Federation was translated to “Mordor,” a region well known from JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” novels.

Google explained at that time that their translation tool works by seeking patterns in hundreds of millions of documents. However, translation can be extremely difficult when the words’ meanings are tied to the context in which they are being used.