Facebook experiments with letting users translate posts into other languages

Facebook is announcing today that it’s giving some users the ability to automatically translate their posts into two or more languages and to freely edit those translations if they so choose, as part of a new experiment. Facebook rolled out this capability for Pages earlier this year, and now some individual users can try it.

Other people will only see the post in the language that’s most relevant to them, based on their language preferences, their location, and the language in which they most frequently write, Facebook software engineers Don Husa, Shawn Mei, and Necip Fazil Ayan wrote in a blog post. If that information isn’t conclusive, Facebook will just serve up the original post. And if that’s not relevant, well, there’s always the See Translation button to switch text into a different language.

About 5,000 Facebook Pages have started using the new tool for writing posts, and on average, it’s used around 10,000 times every day. The resulting posts get 70 million views, and 25 million of them are in one of the additional languages. So clearly, these translations have been useful thus far.

Facebook produces the translations using artificial intelligence. Previously, Facebook relied on Microsoft’s Bing to provide machine translation, but now it’s all done in-house. “These machine translations are generated by machine learning models trained on hundreds of thousands or millions of translations from one language to the other,” Husa, Mei, and Ayan wrote. Baidu, Google, Yandex, and other companies have their own machine translation technology.

Facebook will use these “multilingual posts” in order to improve its own translations in the future, wrote Husa, Mei, and Ayan.

If you’ve been chosen to participate in the test, you can turn on the new feature by going to Settings and opening up the Language section.

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