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Snapchat courts charges of racism again, this time with ‘yellowface’ filter

Snapchat World Lenses
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Snapchat just doesn’t know how to learn from its mistakes. Barely four months after being lambasted for its “digital blackface” in the form of a Bob Marley filter, the social media platform is making questionable decisions again. Dubbed “yellowface” by some very, very incensed Twitterers, a new Snapchat filter released earlier this week turned users into stereotypical Asian caricatures, complete with squinting eyes and a strangely rosy-cheeked complexion.

.@Snapchat wanna tell me why u thought this yellowface was ok??

— grace (@tequilafunrise) August 9, 2016

It’s far from the first time Snapchat has been hit with accusations of racism, though this may be one of the most overt instances to date. Previously, users questioned a number of the app’s “beautifying” filters, many of which seemed to lighten skin and widen eyes. And while there may have been shades of grey in those cases, critics of the most recent filter say that a very definitive line has most definitely been crossed.

@Snapchat uh this filter is racist

— k #STUCK (@engravedhearts) August 9, 2016

@Snapchat @snapchatsupport idk if u realize, but this filter is yellowface and u should take it down

— tiny tim (@limb_light) August 9, 2016

One Twitter user decried the filter as the “most overtly racist filter ever,” and some others even pointed to Snapchat’s own community standards. You know, the ones that ask you to “be thoughtful about what you Snap,” and that warn users not to “bother or make other people feel bad on purpose.” Apparently, its own rules don’t apply to management in the nation of Snapchat.

On Wednesday, the company responded to the swaths of criticism, referring to the filter as an “anime-inspired Lens.” In a departure from its previous indignant defenses of problematic filters (with regard to the Bob Marley feature, Snapchat told CNN, “[The lens] gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music”), the app this time seemed to realize its fault. Though it stopped short of apologizing, Snapchat did note that the lens had “expired” and “won’t be put back into circulation.”

So Snap away, friends. Because at least for now, there aren’t any yellowface filters ruining your fun.

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Lulu Chang
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