Google Translate glitch brands Russia "Mordor"

Google Translate accidentally described Russia as "Mordor" and the country's people as "occupiers" yesterday thanks to an algorithm issue.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, also had his name translated to "sad little horse".

A glitch reportedly caused the software to incorrectly translate the terms from Ukrainian to Russian, leading to an egg-faced apology from the internet giant.

The error apparently stemmed from the service's automatic translation function, which uses web-crawling algorithms to determine the most common uses and contexts of words and phrases.

"When Google Translate creates an automatic translation, it uses examples from hundreds of millions of documents, in order to distinguish which variant is most appropriate," the company explained.

Following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, anti-Russian sentiment has been rife within Ukraine, and derogatory terms about the former Soviet nation, its troops, and its appointed officials have been plastered over social media.

Tolkien's wildly popular works in particular are used as reference points for these jibes, which explains the appearance of "Mordor".

Such is the prevalence of these terms that they allegedly fooled Google's systems, leading to the mix-up.

The company has apologised for the mistake, and the algorithms have now been corrected to show the proper translations for all the affected terms.

The gaffe comes at a point when Ukrainian-Russian tensions are running even higher than normal due to a cyber attack on Ukrainian power stations, which led to widespread blackouts.

The Ukrainian government has blamed the Russian security service for unleashing the malware on its systems, although the country's involvement remains unconfirmed.

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.