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FaceApp in racism row over "ethnicity filters"

Digital Spy (UK) logo Digital Spy (UK) 6 days ago Jennifer Read-Dominguez
FaceApp in racism row over "ethnicity change filters" © FaceApp FaceApp in racism row over "ethnicity change filters"

FaceApp has come under fire again after its new "ethnicity change filters" were described as "offensive" and "racist", as well as drawing comparisons to "black face" and "yellow face".

Launched on Wednesday (August 9), the "ethnicity change filters" – which have been quickly removed – allowed users to edit their image to fit one of four categories: Caucasian, Asian, Indian or Black.

The company initially released a statement arguing that the filters were "designed to be equal in all aspects".

"They don't have any positive or negative connotations associated with them," the company's chief executive Yaroslav Goncharov said. "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."

Taking to Twitter, one person wrote: "Me and my three ethnically diverse half brothers unequivocally condemn the new FaceApp filters," while someone else said: "Wow... FaceApp really setting the bar for racist AR with its awful new update that includes Black, Indian and Asian 'race filters'."

Another added: "I got an alert for an app I have never used. I couldn't believe it. Why on earth is this OK?! #FaceApp #blackface."

Others defended the update, however, with one person tweeting: "I think it's actually kind of beautiful that FaceApp has made a feature that allows us to see other cultures in ourselves."

Following online criticism, the chief executive has backtracked saying: "The new controversial features will be removed in the next few hours."

The iOS and Android app became popular earlier this year after its filters allowed users to morph photos of themselves and others into different ages and genders.

It isn't the first time FaceApp has come under fire – back in April, the Russia-based company was forced to apologise for its "hot" and "flash" filters, which were supposed to make users look more attractive by uncomfortably lightening the complexion.

FaceApp later changed the name of its "hot" filter to "spark" after people complained that it whitewashed them, and then quietly removed the option completely.

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