Snapchat, the popular photo messaging app for iOS and Android, has come under fire by perpetually outraged individuals for the second time in a year because of a photo filter. For those not in the know, Snapchat allows users to modify photographs and videos with filters that add a variety of effects and face-morphs. Most filters are rotated in and out with new replacements each week.
The first instance of outrage against Snapchat happened earlier this year when the service released a filter that overlaid a photograph of Bob Marley onto your face in commemoration of 4/20, the unofficial pot smokers’ holiday. At the time, the app was accused of promoting blackface despite the fact that it did nothing to actually darken users’ photos.
It’s happening again. Snapchat is now being accused of insensitivity and for being “flat-out racist” because its latest anime-inspired lens makes your face look like a cartoon caricature of an Asian person—or so some people allege. They are calling it the “yellowface” filter because it has narrow eyes, rosy cheeks and oversized teeth, which make your face look more like an egg with lines drawn on it more than anything else.
Outraged users took to social media to complain about “#racist filters targeting Asians.”
— Maggie Roque (@mhroque) August 9, 2016
— grace (@tequilafunrise) August 9, 2016
A Medium employee, Katie Zhu, penned a post encouraging everyone to delete Snapchat from their phones.
“Snapchat is the prime example of what happens when you don’t have enough people of color building a product,” she argues.
In light of the filter’s release and the subsequent complaints, the media has taken to covering the issue with articles that not only take Snapchat to task but brand the startup as racist and offer all manner of unsolicited advice on how the company needs to protect the feelings of the easily outraged.
Most of the pieces covering Snapchat’s alleged insensitivity towards Asians are usually prefaced with talk of “privilege,” self-flagellation, and no small amount of virtue signaling. Publications like The Atlantic argue that both the Bob Marley and new anime filter are “hard not to read as extremely racist.”
This line of thinking follows Anita Sarkeesian’s now infamous quote about how “Everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic, and you have to point it all out.”
“So Snapchat, I’m here to tell you — white dude to white dudes — you’re racist,” insists one TNW writer, who admits he never used the service anyway and calls for others to join his boycott. “I casually engaged with Snapchat to see what the hype was about, and am glad I never invested much time in it. I don’t feel bad deleting it from my phone, and I encourage you to consider doing the same.”
Several of these pieces go beyond condemning the filter for racism and suggest that the only way for companies like Snapchat to prevent these mistakes would be to have a diversity quota and employ more people of color.
Snapchat has since responded to the complaints, stating that the lens was inspired by anime and intended to be playful. Due to the complaints and negative media coverage, the filter has been removed and will not be returned to circulation.
Appeasing people who take offense at everything is a Sisyphean task. It might be better to just let that rock roll down the hill.