The Judea and Samaria District police mistakenly arrested a Palestinian worker, identified as Halawim Halawi, last week because Facebook wrongly translated his post ‘Good Morning’ to ‘Attack Them’. The Israeli police had relied on automatic translation software to translate the post. No Arabic-speaking police officer read the misinterpreted post before arresting Halawim Halawi, who works at a construction site in a West Bank settlement
Last week Halawim Halawi posted on his Facebook page a picture from the construction site where he works in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Ilit near Jerusalem. In the picture he is leaning against a bulldozer alongside the caption: “Good morning” in Arabic.
The automatic translation service offered by Facebook uses its own proprietary algorithms. It translated “good morning” as “attack them” in Hebrew and “hurt them” in English.
Arabic speakers explained that English transliteration used by Facebook is not an actual word in Arabic but could look like the verb “to hurt” – even though any Arabic speaker could clearly see the transliteration did not match the translation.
But because of the mistaken translation the Judea and Samaria District police were notified of the post. The police officers were suspicious because the translation accompanied a picture of the man alongside the bulldozer, a vehicle that has been used in the past in hit-and-run terrorist attacks. They suspected he was threatening to carry out such an attack and the police arrested him. After he was questioned, the police realized their mistake and released Halawi after a few hours.
The Judea and Samaria District police confirmed the details and said a mistake in translation was made, which led to the mistaken arrest. The police agreed the correct translation was “good morning.”
Halawi removed the post from his Facebook page after the arrest.