Microsoft, which spent nine months adapting its Windows 95 program for use in China, is now scrambling to remove phrases that pop up in it describing the country’s leaders as “Communist bandits.”
The phrases were in editing software licensed by Microsoft from Taiwanese companies for its personal computer operating system. The Los Angeles Times reported the phrases included descriptions of China’s leaders as “Communist bandits,” and urged Taiwan’s government to “take back the mainland.”
Bryan Nelson, Microsoft’s managing director for China, said Saturday the phrases were removed from unsold software. The company is also sending new software to registered users and posting an update of Simplified Chinese Windows 95 on the Internet so customers can remove the phrases.
Microsoft began selling Windows 95 in China in March, but Nelson said he learned of the problem only a week ago. He noted the Chinese government, which worked with Microsoft to develop the software, made no formal protest and there were only “isolated” incidents of police trying to stop sales.
Nelson said the phrases, described by the company as “culturally inappropriate,” appeared in utility programs called “input method editors” used to create characters in Traditional Chinese.
Although the Windows 95 version in question is written in Simplified Chinese, the language used on the mainland, it contains input method editors to create Traditional Chinese, the language used most in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In some input method editors, the program tries to anticipate and complete the phrase the user is trying to create. That’s how the rogue phrases popped up.
Microsoft’s Nelson said there were just a handful of troublesome phrases among the 70,000 phrases in the software. He added the company is trying to determine how the phrases got into the software and is checking to see if problems exist in other versions of Windows 95 sold in Asia.
This is not the first time Microsoft has been embarrassed while introducing software into other countries.
In July, it apologized to users in Spain and Mexico for a Spanish-language thesaurus that offered “savage” and “man-eater” as synonyms for the word “Indian.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.