FaceApp, a website and application known for allowing users to change a person’s image with aging effects and other editing software, released “Black,” “Asian”, “Caucasian” and “Indian” race and ethnicity filters today that enabled users to change their skin tones and facial features.
The face-editing app subsequently said that it was in the process of removing the filters within a few hours of the release due to public criticism of the racist nature of the new features.
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
Face App’s new feature is awful but seeing way to many people in my TL using it to “demonstrate” effects. We get it. It makes you brown.
— Rachael Krishna (@RachaelKrishna) August 9, 2017
Update from FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov: “The new controversial filters will be removed in the next few hours.”
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) August 9, 2017
By associating a select few specific features and tones to certain races and ethnicities and using them to modify the user’s face, FaceApp perpetuates stereotypes and generalizations detrimental to the concept of diversity among those racial and ethnic groups. Moreover, it encourages racist actions, like blackface, to occur at the push of a button and presents the idea that already marginalized groups are entertaining commodities to be tried out as simple filters.
Hey remember when FaceApp was only a wee bit transphobic? Worry not they’ve literally added a Blackface option pic.twitter.com/akjsBWAL0q
— Breadlines Champions (@iamLoafman) August 9, 2017
This is not the first time that the popular phone app has received criticism for filters they have released.
One filter, which is still available and has received backlash as a transphobic feature, is the gender-swap software, which alters one’s face to qualities that the company assumed should be deemed innately masculine or feminine and are therefore stereotypical of the binary genders.
In addition, FaceApp has a “hot mode” filter that lightens one’s skin tone and enlarges one’s eyes, establishing the idea that these features are needed to be physically attractive and reinforcing the racist concept that lighter skin is more desirable than darker skin. Instead of removing these features, FaceApp just changed the name of the “hot mode” filter to “spark.”
“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,” Goncharov said.
The company had not issued a formal apology or acknowledgment otherwise at the time this article became published.