This really isn’t that hard, people. Just last year, Snapchat apologised for adding an offensive Bob Marley selfie filter to its stable. Now, FaceApp — the silly photo editor you probably downloaded in March and totally forgot about — has outdone Snapchat by throwing in options for people to virtually switch between multiple races. No. Don’t do this.
For some reason, Snapchat decided it was a good idea to create a Bob Marley filter -- one that makes the user look like a bizarre, warped version of the late singer, dreadlocks and all. All the typical things that might stop a massive social network from doing this -- the fact that it looks like like automated blackface, the reductiveness of creating a Bob Marley filter on 4/20, the half-hearted attempts at incorporating Marley's music, the fact that it literally slaps blackface and dreadlocks on everyone who tries it -- apparently didn't occur to Snapchat.Read more
This morning, FaceApp users received a push notification informing them that Asian, Black, Caucasian and Indian filters had been added to the app. The internet noticed:
RIP FaceApp pic.twitter.com/WqWJKDdBYT
— Kyle Jaeger (@kylejaeger) August 9, 2017
The whole internet loves faceapp, the lovely app that swaps gender!
*5 weeks later* pic.twitter.com/3rHHo6RQmz
— Casey M ? (@caseymerwin) August 9, 2017
Normally, FaceApp is used to make friends do a smile in a sad photo, or add old man wrinkles to a fresh-faced 20-something. In April the company added a “hot” filter that everyone quickly realised just attempts to make everyone look whiter. The company subsequently blamed its shoddy AI that was programmed by humans. The filter was renamed “spark” in order to “exclude any positive connotation associated with it,” FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov told The Guardian. It was subsequently removed altogether.
For now, Goncharov is sticking by the new racial features, telling Mic in an email:
The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be equal in all aspects. They don’t have any positive or negative connotations associated with them. They are even represented by the same icon. In addition to that, the list of those filters is shuffled for every photo, so each user sees them in a different order.
This shouldn’t have to be explained, but no matter how well “designed” these features are, they perpetuate stereotypes and call back to an era when dressing up as caricatures of other races was a common form of comedy. Would you wear blackface as a Halloween costume? Would you do it and expect to get through the night without being punched in the face? Selfie app makers just have to follow that guideline and their lives will be much easier.