FaceApp feature shut down after accusations of racism


An app launched earlier this year allows users to take photos and alter them, making the subject appear younger, older, or even change their skin tone. On Wednesday, the app’s new feature, allowing users to change their subject’s ethnicity, was pulled amid allegations of racism.

FaceApp’s filters allowed people to change their ethnicity, allowing for Caucasian, black, Asian and Indian tones. Within minutes of the feature going live, users complained that the ethnic filters were racist.

Comments ranged from humor to outrage, as users used the filter to morph their images, and those of other famous people.

Yaroslav Goncharov, CEO of FaceApp, said the new feature had no negative connotations when it was developed.

“The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be equal in all aspects,” Goncharov said. “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 fled for every photo, so each user sees them in a different order.”

The company quickly folded under pressure and said they would remove the filters. “The new filters have been removed,” Goncharov said in a statement to the press.

A prior FaceApp filter was similarly denounced earlier this year, as it included a “hotness” filter. In order for users to look more attractive, critics said the filter made people’s skin tone lighter.

“We are deeply sorry for this unquestionably serious issue,” Goncharov apologized at the time. A “training set bias” of the program was blamed. “To mitigate the issue, we have renamed the effect to exclude any positive connotation associated with it. We are also working on the complete fix that should arrive soon,” Goncharov said.

After the ethnicity filter was implemented, Twitter users posted plenty of examples of the new capabilities. A few examples follow, including versions of former President Barrack Obama, current Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump.


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