Is FaceApp racist?

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FaceApp

It’s all the rage online this week, but there are some things that are wrong about FaceApp

If you’ve been on social media lately you may have noticed some of your friends looking a little bit different. Thanks, to the new FaceApp. So, what is the FaceApp? The app lets users upload a selfie or a photo of a face, and offers a series of filters that can then be applied to the image to subtly or radically alter its appearance — its appearance-shifting effects include aging and even changing gender. Curious yet?

The app was developed by Wireless Lab out of Saint-Petersburg, Russia, and it’s caught on in the United States over the past few weeks. If you’re wondering what all of the fuss is about the developers say the secret lies in the technology behind FaceApp. Users noticed one of the options, initially labeled as “hot”, made people look whiter. They pointed out, the filter was lightening skin tones to achieve its mooted “beautifying” effect.

It had a racist “hot” filter

The creator of FaceApp has apologized because its “hot” filter automatically lightened people’s skin. FaceApp has temporarily changed the name of the offending filter from “hotness” to “spark,” although it would have been smarter to pull it from the app entirely until a non-racist replacement was ready to ship. Possibly they’re being distracted by the app’s moment of viral popularity. This is by no means the first time an app which changes people’s faces have been criticized for racial insensitivity.

“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 behavior. 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.”
                                                      – Yaroslav Goncharov
                                                        FaceApp founder and CEO

Snapchat’s filters have come under fire on several occasions. Last year it was criticized for promoting “yellowface” after it released a filter which allowed users to turn their selfies into Asian caricatures. Prior to that, a Bob Marley filter was dubbed “the digital equivalent of blackface”.

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