Another company has been forced to remove photo filters after being accused of racism. The AI-powered FaceApp program, which had gained popularity for its ability to make subjects smile, appear younger or older, and swap genders, came under fire for its ‘ethnicity change filters.’
Yesterday, the application introduced a process that could transform users’ faces using a “black,” “white,”“Asian,” and “Indian” filter. The move resulted in a social media backlash, with users calling it racist and offensive while others compared it to blackface and yellowface.
FaceApp initially defended the filters. The Russia-based company insisted “they don’t have any positive or negative connotations associated with them.” CEO Yaroslav Goncharov said: “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.”
Wow... FaceApp really setting the bar for racist AR with its awful new update that includes Black, Indian and Asian "race filters" pic.twitter.com/Lo5kmLvoI9— Lucas Matney (@lucasmtny) August 9, 2017
But a few hours following their introduction, Goncharov said the “controversial” filters would be removed. They disappeared from the app soon after his statement.
This isn’t the first time FaceApp has dealt with an outcry over its filters. A “hot mode” tool it added it April that was supposed make users look more attractive lightened their skin color, enlarged eyes, and removed glasses.
Other apps have faced criticism over similar filters. The Bob Marley lens Snapchat released to honor marijuana holiday 4/20 last year was quickly removed, but the company was again accused of racism a few months later when it added a filter that made users look like Asian caricatures, complete with buck teeth, slanted eyes, and rosy cheeks.