Business Technology

Monday 24 October 2016

'Yellowface' Snapchat selfie filter sparks racism backlash

James Titcomb

Published 11/08/2016 | 12:18


Snapchat has removed a controversial selfie lens after the photo app was accused of racism.

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The lens - a filter that changes how users' selfies look - appeared to play on stereotypes of Eastern Asians, altering users' complexion, enhancing the size of their front two teeth and slanting their eyes.

As soon as the filter was introduced, it was met with an instant backlash. Users accused the app of racism and questioned whether anyone at the company had stopped to think of the potentially offensive implications.

The lens drew comparisons with "yellowface" - the practice of white people donning makeup and dress in order to appear stereotypically Eastern Asian, whose use in Hollywood has often proved controversial, most recently in the Absolutely Fabulous film.

After the outcry, Snapchat deleted the filter, and said it had not intended to cause offence with the lens, which was inspired by anime.

"This anime-inspired lens has already expired, and won't be put back into circulation," Snapchat said "Lenses are meant to be playful and never to offend."

It is not the first time the app has face a racism row. In April, a special "Bob Marley" filter saw Snapchat accused of encouraging digital "blackface".

At the time, it said the lens had been developed with Bob Marley's estate.

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