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10 August 2017, 05:07 | Cameron Gross
'Wrong on so many levels': Internet hammers 'digital blackface' app for adding race-based photo filters
Considering that in-app filters have long struggled to contend with "digital blackface", these new filters felt to many like a odd escalation of the racial insensitivity that's already plaguing face swapping and transforming apps.
After the backlash, FaceApp's Chief Executive Yaroslav Goncharov refused to apologize, saying that the "ethnicity change filters have been created to be equal in all aspects". You know, for fun.
A social media app is under fire for an update enabled users to put on digital blackface. Bowing to the pressure, FaceApp's parent company, Russia's Wireless Lab, has already pulled the feature, less than 12 hours after issuing the update, which we have to assume is some sort of record. In April, the app was forced to delete a "hot" filter which essentially made users appear more white.
This is the original selfie I submitted to the app.
Some users have reacted to the new filters with disappointment and displeasure. Here's what they looked like when I ran a photo of myself through the face filters.
"The ethnicity change filters have been created to be equal in all aspects", Goncharov said.
The popular app uses Snapchat-style face filters to transform users' faces into different looks. 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". "They are even represented by the same icon", Goncharov wrote.
Moreover, it's not entirely clear why or how FaceApp chose the four categories it did - categories that include billions of people who can vastly differ in their physical appearance. In addition to these blatantly racial face filters - which change everything from hair color to skin tone to eye color - other FaceApp users noted earlier this year that the "hot" filter consistently lightens people's skin color.
Even stranger, the app separates "Indian" from "Asian" into its own category yet still operates under the assumption that everyone else in Asia - from Pakistan to Japan, from South Asians to East Asians - all look alike.
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