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.
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.
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:
But some people were into it...?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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