Oh boy, FaceApp. Maybe don't do this. pic.twitter.com/92OGwVYElc— Brian K. Diaz (@briankeithdiaz) August 9, 2017
It seems as if app developers haven't learned much from the most recent reports of racism and inequality in tech.
FaceApp, which has already been massively criticized for having a “hot mode” filter that whitened people's skin, is making headlines again for offering filters that change users' skin tone, among other characteristics.
The viral app now allows users to change their looks with “black,” “white,” “Indian,” and “Asian” filters, prompting a wide variety of users and others to respond with outrage.
RIP FaceApp pic.twitter.com/WqWJKDdBYT— Kyle Jaeger (@kylejaeger) August 9, 2017
(FaceApp board meeting)— Good Tweetman (@Goodtweet_man) August 9, 2017
"Our app is popular."
"What if it could be more popular?"
(Everyone leans in)
"Get this: racism."
hey uh......... gonna tap out of this faceapp thing ??— KIRKLAND signature (@dakotathirst) August 9, 2017
Since the updated filters can be compared to the practice of putting on “blackface” or “yellowface,” which often involve white people mimicking members of different ethnicities by putting on makeup and wearing wigs, the new features seemed to ignore that these activities often draw heavily from racist stereotypes.
Having the same activities being turned into an option in a popular app may prompt many to wonder whether the feature's creators were either unaware of the implications of these filters or simply willing to have the filters there regardless of the consequences.
After the backlash, FaceApp's Chief Executive Yaroslav Goncharov refused to apologize, saying that 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,” he added. “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.”
The Russian company has not stated whether the lenses would eventually be removed.
Despite the lack of acknowledgment from the company itself, what's perhaps more troubling is that this isn't the first time an app is being accused of encouraging people to don “blackface” or “yellowface.” Sadly enough, this probably won't be the last either.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Siegfried Modola