Snapchat under fire for 'yellowface' filter
Just months after coming under heavy criticism for releasing a racially insensitive Bob Marley filter, Snapchat is facing another controversy, this time over a filter that people say promotes racist stereotypes of Asians.
The filter that turned selfies into “yellowface” Asian caricatures was “anime-inspired,” according to Snapchat. The Venice, Calif., company said the filter, also called a lens, had been taken down and would not be used again.
“Lenses are meant to be playful and never to offend,” Snapchat said in a statement Wednesday.
Twitter user Grace Sparapani, 23, did not see it that way.
“It’s like, oh here, as part of your like fun morning snapchat routine, try on some yellowface! Do the squinty eyes AND the buckteeth.” Sparapani said in a Twitter direct message to USA TODAY. “Definitely gives the impression that Asian features (caricatured and taken to extremes) aren’t just available to be tried on but encouraged to be mocked as well.”
On April 20, or 4/20 which is known as “weed day,” Snapchat released a Bob Marley filter that many said was the digital equivalent of “blackface,” overlaying features including the iconic dreadlocks of the late musician.
UCLA professor Safiya Noble says technology companies need to make more of an effort to eradicate racial stereotyping in their products.
“I think that technology companies really must take seriously hiring people with a deep knowledge of cultural studies, ethnic studies, sociology, women studies, fields that are deeply attuned to the histories of people of color, and people who have been marginalized in the United States in particular,” Noble said.
The filter controversies come as the tech world is under increasing fire for the lack of gender and racial diversity in its workforces.
Hispanics and African Americans make up 6% and 3% of the Silicon Valley tech workforce, respectively, according to an analysis by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In non-tech firms in Silicon Valley, Hispanics and African Americans hold 22% and 24% of positions, respectively.
Snapchat has declined to release its diversity stats.
— lia (@limb_light) August 9, 2016
First appeared on USA Today