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FaceApp Introduced Blackface And Yellowface Selfie Filters, Then Removed Them A Few Hours Later

"New filters: Asian, Black, Caucasian, Indian." WHAT. Update: Faceapp has removed the four new filters.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Remember FaceApp?

Back in April, it was a suddenly popular Internet Thing(™) that would make your face look like you were a baby, an old person, or a different gender. Neat!

Then people noticed that the app's "Spark" filter (at first called the "Hot" filter) just made them look whiter.

#faceapp isn't' just bad it's also racist...🔥 filter=bleach my skin and make my nose your opinion of European. No t… https://t.co/bhh2cq6c2A

The company removed the filter in response to the backlash. At the time, FaceApp told BuzzFeed News that the whitening effect wasn't intentional: "It is an unfortunate side effect of the underlying neural network caused by the training set bias, not intended behavior." All was seemingly well.

But then FaceApp did it again.

The app introduced new filters on Wedensday: "Asian, Black, Caucasian, and Indian." It may have Milkshake Ducked itself.

Everyone loves FaceApp, the phone app that adds smiles and wrinkles to your friends' faces! We regret to inform yo… https://t.co/dyJoMQ5qek

At first, FaceApp said in a statement to BuzzFeed News: "The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be equal in all aspects. 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 shuffled for every photo, so each user sees them in a different order."

"The 'Spark' filter was quite a different case. It implied a positive transformation and therefore, it was unacceptable for an algorithm to implicitly change the ethnicity origin," FaceApp added.

But after public backlash and the publication of this article, FaceApp removed the racial selfie filters from its app.

Here's what would happen when you used the filters: You'd take a selfie.

With some skepticism.

You'd select some filters.

Clockwise from top right, my choices were Caucasian (looks most like my Caucasian self, but with icier blue eyes), Asian, black, and Indian.

Should we take a second look at that?

Here's what happened when BuzzFeed video producer Brendan Smith tried FaceApp's filters:

Clockwise from top right: Asian, black, caucasian, no filter.

And BuzzFeed News reporter Katie Notopoulos:

Clockwise from top right: black, Asian, Indian, no filter.

And Jill Stachyra, who sent BuzzFeed News her selfies (below). She's 16, lives in New York, and identifies as half black and half white.

"I got this notification and I'm SHOOK. That is me; I'm a half-black/white 16-year-old girl from NY and I'm infuriated. This should not be normal," she told BuzzFeed News.

"Top left is normal; top right is 'Black' — notice the enlarged lips 🙄 — lower left is 'Asian' and lower right is 'Indian,' which correct me if I'm wrong, but the last time I checked, India was in Asia," she said.

Some people on Twitter were not pleased:

(FaceApp board meeting) "Our app is popular." (Everyone nods) "What if it could be more popular?" (Everyone leans in) "Get this: racism."

So I guess the face app turned racist today 😳

ah yes exactly what our racist country needs. Great update face app!

Im glad faceapp, that fun app we all used for 24 hours, just invented black face as a cool retro comeback attempt

oh jesus faceapp please do not do this

But some people were into it...?

From @Skisodamus's research on faceapp, I've discovered that I would make a handsome black and asian man.

They added different races to FaceApp🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

face app just keeps getting better

UPDATE

FaceApp removed the "Asian, Black, Caucasian, and Indian" filters entirely after the publication of this article. The company did not comment on why.


Blake Montgomery is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Blake Montgomery at blake.montgomery@buzzfeed.com.

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