Machine Translation Shifts Power
The creation, development, and deployment of machine translation technology is historically entangled with practices of surveillance and governance.
In 2019, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its plans to collect social media usernames of foreign individuals seeking entry into the United States, whether as travelers or immigrants, as part of a new “extreme vetting” process to determine admissibility into the country. For those whose online activity is mediated primarily in a language other than English, an official manual distributed by US Citizenship and Immigration Services instructs officers to use Google Translate to translate their social media posts into English. This practice continued in spite of Google’s warning that its translation services are not intended to be used in place of human interpreters.