Following the 6.9 magnitude earthquake on the island of Lombok in Indonesia that killed an estimated 130 people, Indonesian speakers were surprised to see their messages of encouragement on Facebook to fellow Indonesians with the word “Selamat” triggered the platform’s “congratulations” balloons and confetti to appear.
In a prime example of the importance of contextual translation, the misstep by Facebook occurred due to the fact that “Selamat” can mean “survive” or “congratulations” depending on the situation in which it is used.
“‘Congrats’ in Indonesian is ‘Selamat’,” wrote Herman Saksono on Twitter after seeing the problem. “Selamat also means ‘to survive.’ After the 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Lombok, Facebook users wrote ‘I hope people will survive’. Then Facebook highlighted the word ‘Selamat’ and throw some balloons and confetti.”
“Congrats” in Indonesian is “selamat”. Selamat also means “to survive.”
After the 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Lombok, Facebook users wrote “I hope people will survive”. Then Facebook highlighted the word “selamat” and throw some balloons and confetti. pic.twitter.com/DEhYLqHWUz
— Herman Saksono (@hermansaksono) August 6, 2018
Facebook said it “regrets” the mixup.
“This feature (a text animation triggered by typing ‘congrats’) is widely available on Facebook globally, however we regret that it appeared in this unfortunate context and have since turned off the feature locally,” Facebook spokesperson Lisa Stratton told Motherboard over email. “Our hearts go out to the people affected by the earthquake.”