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Prank Translation Hack
February 9, 2011 - By: - In: Translation - Comments Off on Prank Translation Hack

When does prank translation cross the line? When the prank’s on you. But when it happens to Dylan Zéroosiix’s little brother, apparently un petit jerk on Facebook, it’s LOL, especially since it’s such a clever hack of Facebook’s volunteer (amateur) translation tool.

Adrian Chen reported on Gawker.com that a menu on Facebook’s French language version has been hacked to poke fun at le petit frère de Dylan Zéroosiix. Since anyone can rewrite the menus on this translated version of Facebook, the prankster is unknown, and the evidence points to a vast conspiracy. To play the Facebook crowdsource system, the prankster had to bring along plenty of friends to get the vote for his sabotage translation. That’s how you can game the Facebook crowdsource translation tools to pick any translation you want, no matter how ridiculous.

In l’affaire of Dylan Zéroosiix’s little brother, a prankster altered the “report/block this person” menu, where radio buttons allow blockers to provide a reason for their decision. Most of the options are normal: inappropriate profile picture, fake profile, etc., but where “Inappropriate wall post” should be, it says instead: “En discution instantané, Le petit frère de Dylan Zéroosiix m’a insulter.” Translation: “Dylan Zéroosiix’s little brother insulted me in instant messenger.”

Facebook English is carved in corporate stone, but for any other language, it’s up to the users to decide. Anyone can translate, and anyone can then vote on the best translation. Kind of unfair for us English Facebook users, isn’t it? Locked away here in our gilded ghetto, we are stuck with every last word of creepy Facebook corporate-speak. No deviation from the script permitted. But it’s hell’s highway for non-English Facebook. They can do whatever they want.

In an exclusive TranslationGuy interview, Dylan disclosed the name of the mastermind who brought down Facebook France to get even with his little brother. “Slim Slim” did it. You read it here first, ladies and gentlemen. The gloves in the pic? An homage to Dexter, season finale.

What could possible go wrong? Well, that depends on what you mean by wrong. The amateurs who crowdsource aren’t always selfless, bilingual do-gooders making the world smaller one word at a time. Some will use it to suit their own ends. This is not an isolated problem, either. Since Facebook really doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the translations unless someone notices, there’s plenty.

Last July, “A group of Turkish pranksters enlisted the help of their fellow message board users to mount a large scale linguistic assault on Facebook, resulting in red faces all round. A post on the Inci Sözlük discussion forum describes the plan for abusing the Facebook translate application for the amusement of the discussion board members and it seems, the attack was a complete success. A selection of 56 words and phrases that are commonly used across the Facebook platform, were changed from ‘Like’ to ‘Fuck’ and ‘Your message could not be sent because the user is offline’ was improved to ‘Your message could not be sent because of your tiny penis.’” Now that’s class. If you’ve got more of these let me know.

 

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