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FaceApp changes your race with its latest selfie-editing filters (update)

People got angry.
Rob LeFebvre, @roblef
August 9, 2017
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FaceApp uses neural networks for realistic-looking changes to your selfie photos. Originally, it had filters to add smiles, change your age, change gender or "beautify" your face. Unlike Snapchat's overlays, FaceApp uses deep learning technologies to change the photo itself. Now, a new update adds race to the mix, with an update to enable users to make themselves look Asian, Black, Caucasian or Indian.

There has been some outrage over the new filters, with some Twitter users calling it "digital blackface." This isn't the first time photographic filters have come under fire, of course. Snapchat's 420 Bob Marley filter came under fire for the same lack of racial sensitivity, while its "anime-inspired" lens felt downright racist. FaceApp itself has already faced criticism when it released a "hot" filter that basically just made people look more "white."

The app developer doesn't feel that the new filters are specifically racist, however. "The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be equal in all aspects," Yaroslav Goncharov, the app's CEO and creator, told Engadget in an email. "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."

Update: Goncharov just emailed Engadget with the following: "The new controversial filters will be removed in the next few hours."

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