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article imageUS officials are using Google Translate to assess refugees

By Tim Sandle     Sep 29, 2019 in Technology
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been using both Google Translate and the equivalent service from Bing to assess and vet refugees seeking to enter the U.S.
In particular, the U.S. government agency has been deploying digital translation services in order to assess the social media posts relating to people seeking asylum. According to the BBC, the recommendation to use the translation service is included in a manual issues to staff, which suggests that the digital translations services represent "the most efficient approach". No acknowledgement is made of the relative imprecision of such forms of technology.
The error-prone nature of these translation services, especially when slang, colloquialisms or other forms of non-standard langue are used is picked up by the news site ProPublica. Here it is pointed out that digital online translation tools invaribaly mistranslatd sentences and misinterpreted nuance and slang. Even Google itself advises users that its machine translation service is not “intended to replace human translators.”
It remains that individual officers can elect request expert translation services, at their own discretion. This hasn't reassured Douglas Hofstadter, a professor of cognitive science and comparative literature at Indiana University, who remain concerned about the reliance upon translation services: "I find it deeply disheartening and stupid and shortsighted, personally", states the academic as quoted by The Independent.
However, the USCIS has responded by telling ProPublica that checking social media posts was a "common-sense measure o strengthen our vetting procedures", as stated by USCIS spokeswoman Jessica Collins. Furthermore, the U.S. agency has indicated that "information collected from social media, by itself, will not be a basis to deny refugee resettlement".
The activity is in keeping with a policy introduced by the Trump Administration, whereby the U.S. now insists that all applicants seeking U.S. visas must submit full details of their social media accounts. This requirement extends to the vetting people whose spouse or parents have already been granted refugee status in the U.S.
More about Google Translate, Immigration, Refugee
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