A file photo of Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps displayed on an iPhone. Photo: Jenny Kane / AP
A file photo of Facebook, Messenger and Instagram apps displayed on an iPhone. Photo: Jenny Kane / AP

BANGKOK — Police on Friday said they are investigating a mistranslated headline about His Majesty the King’s birthday seen on several Facebook pages earlier this week.

Public broadcaster Thai PBS also filed a cybercrime complaint against the social media giant, blaming the website’s auto-translation for misinterpreting its caption during a live broadcast of ceremonies honoring King Vajiralongkorn’s 68th birthday on Tuesday.

“We’re collecting evidence and investigating those who intentionally shared the wrong translation,” Col. Pichet Kumpeeranon, commander of a cyber police sub-division, said.

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The English caption written by Thai PBS’ foreign service was translated into Thai with a meaning seen by some on social media as offensive toward the King. Khaosod English is not allowed to publish the remark in full.

In a statement, the public broadcaster said the error was caused by a technical glitch in Facebook’s translation system and the Royal Household Bureau, as well as the digital ministry, has been notified of the mishap.

Facebook also admitted to the error and offered an apology to the Thai people, according to its statement.

“We’ve the utmost respect for the Thai people and we sincerely apologize for our mistake,” the statement wrote. “We’re working on a solution for the technical error and we’ve temporarily shut down our English to Thai translation feature on Facebook and Instagram.”

The TV station appears to be the latest victim of Facebook’s auto-translation service, which is often ridiculed for its inaccuracy.

In January, a Facebook translation error caused the Myanmar State Counselor Office’s message welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping to address the Chinese leader as “Mr. Shithole.”

Digital minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta also lashed out at the American social media company on Thursday for its idle response to requests from Thai authorities.

He said only 30 percent of Thai cybercrime court orders to take down posts have been answered by Facebook, compared to 90 percent by YouTube.


“Facebook isn’t cooperating with us, even though they work in Thailand and offer services to the Thai people,” Buddhipongse said. “They should understand the context of Thai society and respect what the Thai people are upholding. People are saying that the ministry is idle on the matter, but in fact, the foreign companies are to be blamed.”

The minister said he has contacted Facebook about the mistranslation and demanded the company to take responsibility for what happened.

Breaching the Computer Crime Act, such as spreading false information or information deemed to cause unrest, is punishable by up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of 200,000 baht.