The controversial face-changing mobile application FaceApp, which enables users to edit their selfies in interesting ways, has recently apologized for a feature that it has since removed.
A new update added “ethnicity change filters” enabled users to see what they would look like if they were Caucasian, Black, Asian or Indian. Mic first reported the feature—and pointed out its cultural insensitivity.
Originally, FaceApp’s chief executive and creator, Yaroslav Goncharov, seemingly didn’t think there was anything wrong with the new feature. He told Mic and other news outlets:
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. 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.
Goncharov changed his mind roughly five hours after Mic’s piece was published. He followed up with a message that read, “The new controversial filters will be removed in the next few hours.”
The Verge called the feature “a sort of digital blackface,” and likened it to the time that Snapchat released a Bob Marley selfie mask. Twitter users unleashed criticism with tweets such as the following:
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
FaceApp has roughly 40 million installs, which makes this more than just a rogue company making a poor decision.
For now, the race filters have been removed, and it seems for the immediate future that the app will focus on making people look younger or older.