A selfie app that renders users’ faces in varying styles removed one of its filters following criticism that it Whitewashed the faces of people of color.
Mic reports that after receiving complaints, FaceApp developers first changed the function’s name from "Hot" to "Spark," then removed it completely yesterday (April 25). The feature was one of many that modified customers’ selfies, including ones that added a smile, changed their perceived gender and added or deleted wrinkles. FaceApp’s Itunes page no longer lists the Spark or Hot filter, but Mic quotes the old page as saying those using the filter would "become more attractive." As these tweets compiled by Mic and Buzzfeed attest, the filter did in fact Whiten users’ skin and alter their features:
So not only did my FaceApp make me white, it also used a picture of a random black woman it found on the internet. pic.twitter.com/uxysGUeHtD
— Jay McGregor (@_JayMcgregor) April 25, 2017
Since I did my face reveal, I also did the face app thing, tell me what you think, also "hot" me is just me with lighter skin, so racist, 😛 pic.twitter.com/l2rrVobWyW
— Doooy (@_Doughy_) April 23, 2017
the FaceApp filter that’s supposed to show the hot version of you just made me white pic.twitter.com/DhQ0uwMmV0
— zak. (@zakcheneyrice) April 25, 2017
FaceApp founder and CEO Yaroslav Goncharov apologized via The Guardian and attributed the Whitewashing to "an unfortunate side-effect of the underlying neural network caused by the training set bias, not intended behavior."
FaceApp is not the first selfie app to be acused of racist alterations. Snapchat users have leveled similar criticism against the company on multiple occasions, including last year when a filter added dreadlocks and darkened skin in honor of Bob Marley and 4/20.