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FaceApp removes Ethnic Filters after Backlash

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FaceApp has removed several ‘ethnicity filters’ after a social media backlash. The app, which launched last year, uses face filter technology, allowing its users to see what they might look like if they grew a beard, changed gender or age, or wore a certain makeup, for example.

FaceApp allowed a user to see themselves with different cultural faces.
Source: Huffington Post

Last week’s 2.0 update gave users the chance to see what they would look including Asian, African, Indian or Caucasian. These made up four of only ten filters available on the free version of the app in a casual reminder that racism still exists around us in many forms. The filters altered both the user’s facial features and their skin tone. Social media users began to post images of themselves using the ethnicity filters to make a statement on racism.

FaceApp is being labelled racist after controversial filters.
Image taken from Allure

Yaroslav Goncharov, CEO and founder of FaceApp, claims the filters were meant to be equal and absent from negative connotations. He said the icons for those filters were the same as any other filter, and the order of the filters were shuffled so as to avoid the ‘ranking’ of cultures.

This is not the first time FaceApp has caused a racial stir. Last year upon its release, a series of filters designed to make users more attractive were actually just making them whiter. The company issued an apology:

“We are deeply sorry for this unquestionably serious issue. It is an unfortunate side-effect of the underlying neural network caused by the training set bias, not intended behaviour.” (Yaroslav Goncharov, CEO and founder of FaceApp)

FaceApp used a "hot" filter which made users more white.
Image taken from Indy100

You’d think after a massive slip-up like this, the company would be much more careful about the filters they incorporate into their app. As face-altering technology continues to develop further, companies such as FaceApp and SnapChat will need to monitor the difference between what is creative and what is necessary in their app design.