The INSIDER Summary:
- On Wednesday, FaceApp released four new filters, titled “Asian,” “Black,” “Caucasian,” and “Indian.”
- Ostensibly designed to change the appearance of your ethnicity, the filters are questionable — to say the least.
- People online have already started to criticize the app for what is essentially a blatant case of digital blackface.
- It’s a shockingly tone-deaf move for the company, especially since it was already criticized for a racially insensitive filter earlier this year.
A photo editing and selfie app called FaceApp took the internet by storm earlier this year.
Using neural-network technology, the app can make you look younger or older, swap your gender, add a smile to your photo, and more. However, FaceApp quickly came under fire for a “Hot” filter that lightened your skin tone and made your nose more narrow. After users accused the company of whitewashing, CEO Yaroslav Goncharov first renamed — and then pulled — the filter in April.
On Wednesday, the app released an update that includes four new, equally questionable filters — to say the least.
The four new filters, titled “Asian,” “Black,” “Caucasian,” and “Indian,” are ostensibly designed to change the appearance of your ethnicity. However, regardless of FaceApp’s intentions — INSIDER reached out to the company and had not heard back at the time of this story — it’s safe to say the filters are a pretty blatant case of digital blackface, yellowface, and brownface.
Here’s what they made me look like:
Unsurprisingly, people on Twitter are already critizing the filters for being racially insensitive.
(FaceApp board meeting)
“Our app is popular.”
“What if it could be more popular?”
(Everyone leans in)
“Get this: racism.”
— Good Tweetman (@Goodtweet_man) August 9, 2017
ah good, faceapp has a “black people” filter now. finally a way to artificially look like a black person for entertainment value
— Jotaro Dudebro (@notrevenant) August 9, 2017
FACEAPP IS BACK ON ITS BULLSHIT TO A DEGREE PREVIOUSLY CONSIDERED UNREACHABLE
— Dick Typerman (@disco_mystic) August 9, 2017
It’s a truly bizarre move for FaceApp, especially since the CEO apologized for “the unquestionably serious issue” of its whitewashing “Hot” filter just earlier this year. “It is an unfortunate side-effect of the underlying neural network caused by the training set bias, not intended behaviour,” Goncharov told the Guardian.
Unlike Snapchat, however, FaceApp seems to have designed its new filters with one goal in mind: to let users “try on” racial phenotypes the way they would a flower crown or puppy ears. While this may seem like harmless fun, it’s important to keep in mind that blackface originated as a form of racist entertainment, rooted in harmful stereotypes.
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. For example, the “Asian” filter made me, an actual Asian woman, look like a completely different person.
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.
Hopefully, the app developers respond to the new update and strive to do better in the future.
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