Google Translate is a fantastic tool that provides us with the ability to cross language barriers. However, when people recently began noticing that some of the translations generated by the program were rather inappropriate and discriminatory, the tool suffered a brief stain on its reputation.

 

The issue that arose regarding the translations came after users found that Google Translate was producing anti-gay slurs as viable synonyms for the term “gay.” These users were troubled to find words like “poof,” “queen,” and “faggot” being offered up as translation results.

 

A petition was started by Andre Banks of AllOut to draw attention to the issue, which quickly gained thousands of signatures before catching Google’s eye.

 

When typed into Google Translate, the word "gay" generates a number of results, some of which include hateful terms like "poof" and "faggot" (go.allout.org)

When typed into Google Translate, the word “gay” generates a number of results, some of which include hateful terms like “poof” and “faggot” (go.allout.org)

Naturally, the company was quick to react, apologizing for the inappropriate translations and assuring users that it would work to clear the derogatory language in question from the program. A Google spokesperson noted that the root of the issue was simply that Google Translate works by pulling from already present translations and texts on the web, making it easy for negative terms to get caught in the mix. As such, Google is consistently relying on users to bring up issues, and appreciates their help in resolving these problems quickly.

 

Of course, Google’s swift action in this case and its clear commitment to working with users to improving its programs are all strong examples of a company responding positively in a time of crisis. Thanks to the continued diligence of Google’s PR efforts, the effects of this crisis were a lot less damaging than they would have been if Google’s reputation were already tarnished.

 

As Banks himself put it, “At its best, Google Translate promotes understanding. We value the tool and use it every day at All Out to communicate with our members and activists around the world. That’s why we took the issue so seriously. We knew Google had a good track record of standing up for equality and I have great friends who work there, but sometimes even your friends make mistakes.”

 

Banks went on to applaud Google on responding to user concerns in a matter of hours as opposed to weeks or months. His comment on Google’s history of supporting equality and maintaining social justice prove that a positive brand image in itself can be the best form of crisis management. Your handling of crises shapes the way people view your slip-ups; the steps you take in the wake of a crisis can mean all the difference between the willingness of the public to accept the actions you take to right your wrong.

 

How do you think Google’s history as a company played a role in shaping how people reacted to this incident? Share your thoughts with us below or tweet me @tamarahoumi