Bing translation error connects ISIS with Saudi Arabia

Microsoft’s search engine Bing has sparked controversy after translating the word “Daesh”— a term that refers to the fundamentalist group Islamic State— as “Saudi Arabia.”

One Twitter user posted a short video showing the mistranslation in action, telling Bing “shame on you.”

In English, people commonly refer to the Islamic State terrorist group as ISIS, but “Daesh” is another way to describe it— it’s an acronym based on an Arabic name for the group. The term does not mean Saudi Arabia.

The error and the angry response on social media that it sparked (with one tweet showing Bing being put into a trashcan) resulted in an apology from Mamdouh Najjar, Microsoft vice president and national technology officer in Saudi Arabia. He tweeted (in Arabic) that the mistranslation was “unintentional.”

In response to an inquiry from, a Microsoft spokesperson said: "Our product team fixed the error in the automated translation within hours of learning about it."

Bing is not the only search engine that’s garnered attention with controversial results at the intersection of technology and politics.

Earlier this summer, the Google search engine displayed an image of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as well as his birthdate in response to the inquiry “when was Hitler born.” Google subsequently removed the Trump image.

That wasn’t the only time that Google connected the two men. A Google image search for “Crippled America,” a book by Trump, also displayed images of Hitler’s treatise “Mein Kampf” in July. Google explained in a statement to that Google Image results “are generated by an algorithm based primarily on what others who have searched for your particular query have also searched for. This means that sometimes unexpected or sensitive subject matter may appear for a given query.” The “Mein Kampf” images were removed.

As for the Microsoft Bing error, crowdsourcing was a reported possible cause.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger