It’s not easy being a flat-Earther on a spherical planet. On top of dealing with a constant flood of ridicule and the fear of falling off the side of the planet, they are now getting shit from one of the world’s biggest tech giants.
If you head over to Google Translate and ask it to translate the sentence “I am a flat-earther” from English into French, it will tell you the correct translation is “je suis un fou”. Francophones will tell you that this roughly translates into English as “I’m a crazy person”.
This is reportedly not an Easter Egg left by a computer engineer in Silicon Valley with a vendetta against pseudoscience, so say Google. They claim it’s actually an error caused by the application’s use of “statistical machine translation”, which essentially gathers a huge amount of text and looks for parallels between two languages.
"Translate works by learning patterns from many millions of examples of translations seen out on the web," a Google spokesman said in a statement, according to CNET. "Unfortunately, some of those patterns can lead to incorrect translations. The error has been reported and we are working on a fix."
As per Google’s explanation, it basically means a lot of French and English speakers are equating flat-Earthers to craziness, leading to inaccurate machine translation.
That’s Google’s side of the story at least. The problem was noted earlier this week on Reddit, however, the “error” still occurs four days on.
It doesn’t just seem to be the French translation that is experiencing problems either. Translated into Romanian it becomes “I'm a flat spider”. In Yoruba it translates into “I'm flat-flat”. In Azerbaijani it becomes "I'm a straight robber". And in Catalan it seems to read “I'm farther away”.
The "flat-Earther movement" has experienced an unlikely renaissance over the past decade. Earlier this month, flat-Earthers from around the globe headed to the UK’s first ever public Flat Earth Convention to discuss “research” and hang out with like-minded loonies. Fortunately, an actual scientist was there to document all of it. You can hear their insightful report on the convention right here.