FaceApp Update: ‘Racist’ Filters Yanked In Wake Of ‘Digital Blackface’ Backlash

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One site called FaceApp’s ethnicity filters “cringeworthy” while a reader’s response was “WTF.”

As many agree, the developer’s digital blackface filter came across as “racist.” Now, many are saying “good riddance” to the “offensive” artificial intelligence-powered (or AI) software feature.

FaceApp shook up the tech landscape earlier this year. The popular app, which is available on Android and iOS mobile operating systems, allows a user to edit the age and gender of selfies or pictures of others. Some of the creations are absolutely stunning and many people were having fun with the application as it was originally developed.

On Wednesday, FaceApp’s engineers added a controversial filter that allowed users to morph photos to take on different ethnicities: African American, Caucasian, Asian and Indian.

From the start, a thunderous backlash ensued as critics said the app’s filters were racist and created a fertile environment for bigotry — whether intentional or unintentional. Opponents of the FaceApp filter said the app maker didn’t consider the ramifications before it launched the app, according to The Guardian.

The Washington Post railed against the FaceApp program as “disturbing” and “not funny.” It charged that, on the surface, the launching of the “black up” app was evidence that blackface was back. On a deeper level, the digital app served as proof that racist “blackface never left,” it added.

“It was obvious enough — except, apparently, to FaceApp’s executives — to recognize that slapping slanted eyes on a user’s face and calling it Asian, or large lips on the same face and calling it black, was racist. Almost everyone who tweeted about the feature did so to complain about it, or at least to mock it, and the feature disappeared less than 24 hours after it surfaced.”

Originally, the company pushed back over charges of racism. It attempted to calm the tide of anger and confusion by explaining how the “ethnicity change filters” were “designed to be equal in all aspects.”

The backlashed against the filter continued. Hours later, the company pulled the app around the midday hours.

Still, FaceApp is not new to this kind of controversy. The Russia-based company came under fire months ago with the introduction of its “hot” filter. Although it was conceived to allow users to glam up their selfies, the FaceApp filter also gave a user the ability to lighten their complexion. It led to a heated debate over “the nature of beauty” and skin color.

Did the FaceApp ethnicity filter offend you? Do you think it came across as racist?

[Featured Image by Ollyy/Shutterstock]