Prank Translation Hack

by Translation Guy on February 9, 2011

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 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.



  1. My revenge on Facebook is even simpler.
    I didn’t bother to join or register.
    Facebook has still not recovered from the shock.
    😉 😉 😉

  2. benkingery says:

    Google should acquire facebook, cuz it knows how to run stuff!! Only creating stuff isnt important, managing or running it successfully without making it a pain for the people is also important.

  3. How to tell if your FB account is hacked –

  4. Here’s another classic FB prank –

  5. Sheryl Diaz says:

    When are the blockheads at Facebook going to realize that they need to be more careful with stuff like this. As if they can’t afford a few hundred translators. Ken, do you have any resources available for them?

    • Ken says:

      Since crowdsourcing is supposed to be self-correcting and engaging to endusers too, (which is what we are doing here, in a way), so it is the users who have to be more careful, not Facebook. For the important stuff, contracts, etc., you can be sure that Facebook works with professional translation services and pays going rates for top-notch work, and that our resources continue to be available to them.

  6. Given the fact that Facebook’s founder is only 24 and grew up in the information age, along with the fact he has surrounded himself with no one but young folks, my feeling is this kid needs an adult to step in and tell the children when they’ve screwed up – again.

    It’s one thing to create this monster he calls Facebook. It’s quite another to have the real world (and I mean experience trying to make it in the real world and not his world) experience necessary to connect on a personal level with the people who actually use this service. Being a genius (which is debatable) doesn’t mean he knows all. It just means when he screws up, he does it big-time.

  7. Facebook being such an important element in day-to-day life, our information, photos, videos, and yes, all our other thoughts often end up on our walls. Reasoning that our accounts are our own space online and hence—in theory, actually—these are our private domain. So this is scary.

  8. Facebook rape –

  9. Queen Wifee says:

    Not sure whether this is funny or sad.

    • Ken says:

      I thought it was funny. Dylan and his pals rule.

  10. Simple thing is to not use facebook. If you were a friend of mine, then you would know I am anti-social for the most part and would never be caught on a site like that. Maybe instead of crying about it, shut off you account and quit using it for awhile. If 10 million people quit using something, trust me, the point will get across and fixed quickly. Use your heads people. Take back your rights to tell people to piss off, if you don’t like it.

  11. Turtle says:

    For gosh sake. FB really are a bunch of dummies, aren’t they?

  12. bowhunter says:

    This post leads me to an interesting question. How do I delete my facebook page for good and permanently?

  13. Hank says:

    Let’s admit it, those of us who have Facebook accounts have allowed Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking genius to enter our lives and create its own permanent niche. Remember, we are all on there: criminals, plumbers, rapists, pranksters, executives, etc…

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