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10 August 2017

FaceApp removes racist ‘ethnicity change’ face filters from its app

The popular “FaceApp” has removed a series of racially-themed filters following a backlash against the app.

The popular app uses Snapchat-style face filters to transform users’ faces into different looks. It can make your face look older or younger, for example, or make a woman’s face look like a man’s.

But in its most recent update, the app also added a series of “ethnicity change filters” called “Black,” “Asian,” “Indian,” or “Caucasian.” Seriously.

And, in case you were wondering, the filters were just as racist as they sound. Here’s what they looked like when I ran a photo of myself through the face filters.

The author's face in the "caucasian" (top left), "Indian" (bottom left), "Black" (top right) and "Asian" (bottom right) filters.

The author’s face in the “caucasian” (top left), “Indian” (bottom left), “Black” (top right) and “Asian” (bottom right) filters.

Image: screenshot/faceapp

Unsurprisingly, the app, which has faced criticism in the past for insensitive filters, saw an almost immediate backlash.

By late afternoon Wednesday, the filters had been removed from the app. In a statement, FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov confirmed the filters were being removed but still defended them, saying “they don’t have any positive or negative connotations associated with them.”

“The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be equal in all aspects,” Goncharov said. “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.”

FaceApp isn’t the only app to have come under fire for insensitive filters. Snapchat has also faced criticism for a Bob Marley-themed filter and another that was described as “digital yellowface.” 

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