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Chinese social media platform translated Canadian flag emoji as 'he's in prison' – CTV News



One of the largest social networks in the world says it has fixed a bug that caused the Canadian flag emoji to translate as the phrase “he’s in prison.”

Twitter user James Hull was likely one of the first people to notice the unusual translation. He tweeted about it early Tuesday morning.

Rene Bidart, a PhD student at the University of Waterloo who is studying in Hong Kong, experimented by tweeting one consistent Chinese character along with the emoji of other countries’ flags. North Korea’s flag translated from Chinese to English as “Hey, hey!”, Switzerland’s as “No.” and Belgium’s as “Oh, it’s hot.”

The flag of Panama carried the same translation as the Canadian flag, according to TechNode, a website focused on Chinese technology.

The Canadian translation was particularly interesting given the ongoing quarrel between Canada and China. Two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been detained in China since December 2018 in what is widely seen as a response to the Canadian government’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou several days earlier.

Huawei and Tencent – the owner of WeChat – are not directly connected, but are two of the most prominent companies in China’s tech sector. WeChat is widely used in China and claims to have more than one billion monthly active users worldwide. Independent rankings consistently rank it among the five most-used social networking apps in the world.

The real story behind the mistranslation, however, appears to have less to do with politics than it does with technology.

Twitter user Daniel Sinclair described the quirk as a likely example of “how AI can go very wrong.” He theorized that the neural network powering WeChat’s translation service may have discovered that the Canadian flag emoji often appeared in messages about Kovrig and Spavor, and assumed a more direct connection than actually exists.

Bidart said much the same in an email to, adding that he suspected the mistranslation was unintentional.

Word association is increasingly being used in neurolinguistic programming such as translation services, he said – and if that’s how WeChat’s translator is powered, then “words that appear together in the training data get clustered together, so if prison commonly appears with Canada, these things could have similar embeddings.”

Tencent did not respond to a request for comment from before this story was published. TechNode quoted a spokesperson for Tencent as calling the issue “a translation bug” and said the company was taking “immediate action to fix (it).”

According to TechNode, the bug is only known to have affected the iOS version of WeChat.

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New migrant caravan in Mexico pushes past blockade to head north



Several thousand migrants from Haiti, South America and Central America set off from southern Mexico headed north on Saturday, clashing with law enforcement trying to hold the caravan back.

Some people among the latest mass movement of migrants trying to pass north through Mexico said they hoped to eventually reach the U.S. border, where the number of migrants trying to gain entry was already hitting new records.

Some 3,000 people, including families with young children, began trekking on foot on Saturday from the city of Tapachula near the Guatemala border toward Mexico’s capital.

One of the caravan’s organizers, Irineo Mujica, said he was leading the group to Mexico City in protest of the lack of government assistance in the south, where officials have attempted to contain thousands of migrants, and to demand legal documents that would let migrants move freely in the country.

A highway checkpoint in Tapachula with some 400 law enforcement officers aimed to block their path, but many migrants managed to break past. A Reuters video showed people carrying backpacks and with children on their shoulders pushing through a cluster of officers in anti-riot gear who attempted to contain the crowd.

One family, including a woman and small children, were knocked to the ground in the crush of people, their belongings scattering.

Some migrants who attempted to leave Tapachula in September to head north were subject to brutal treatment by Mexican officials, and the government’s National Migration Institute condemned incidents of violence captured on video.

U.S. authorities arrested more than 1.7 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year, the most ever recorded


(Reporting by Jose Torres, Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Seven prisoners found dead in Ecuador jail affected by riots



Ecuador‘s SNAI prison authority has found the bodies of seven prisoners in the same jail where violence between gangs lead to the deaths of 119 inmates last month, it said on Saturday.

The seven bodies were found in the Penitenciaria del Litoral, located in the southern city of Guayaquil, which has become Ecuador’s most violent prison.

The riot at the end of last month also left dozens of prisoners injured.

The seven prisoners discovered dead on Saturday were found in a pavilion used for conjugal visits, the SNAI authority said in a Twitter message without elaborating.

The deaths of four other prisoners in the jail during October are also under investigation.

The SNAI will work alongside police and prosecutors as it investigates the inmates’ deaths, it said.

Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency for the country’s penitentiaries last month in order to free up resources and increase control inside prisons.

Members of the military have also been brought in to help control prisons across the country.

Officials say gangs have alliances with transnational criminal groups and are battling over drug trafficking routes.

Since the beginning of the month Ecuador’s police have brought violence in Penitenciaria del Litoral under control, it said, adding that other prisons were also under control.


(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Oliver Griffin, Editing by Franklin Paul)

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Spain vows to speed up aid to volcano-hit La Palma



Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Spain would speed up aid to the hard-hit agriculture and fishing industries on the island of La Palma, where part of the volcano’s cone collapsed on Saturday and red hot lava continued to flow over a month after the eruption began.

Lava has covered almost 900 hectares of land, destroying over 2,000 buildings and many banana plantations. More than 7,000 people have had to leave their homes since the eruption started on Sept. 19.

“At the cabinet meeting next Tuesday we are going to make a budgetary modification to accelerate the arrival of economic resources for both the Employment Plan and aid for the entire agriculture and fishing sector,” Sanchez said at a press conference during his fifth visit to the island since the eruption began.

In early October, Sanchez announced 206 million euro ($239 million) in government funding for the island to rebuild infrastructure and boost employment, agriculture and tourism. [L1N2QZ06F]

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said that part of the main cone had collapsed on Saturday morning. It tweeted footage of dark ash clouds billowing from the volcano.

Reuters footage showed lava engulfing buildings and a dog who appeared to have had a narrow escape after running away from the fast-moving flow.

The eruption has been devastating some of the island’s banana crops, which account for around half its economic output. [L8N2QQ2J0]

Sanchez paid tribute to all those working to tackle the eruption, which has caused no deaths.


(Reporting by Antony Paone; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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