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In 4/20 tribute, Snapchat's blackface filter pisses off everybody



It’s 4/20, but the Internet is totally not chill right now.

That’s because in Snapchat’s attempt to celebrate April 20, the “holiday” dedicated to weed culture and its many enthusiasts, the company offended a large portion of the Internet with a special Bob Marley face filter that people quickly pointed out is essentially a blackface filter.

Twitter erupted. Here’s a taste.

Snapchat issued a statement on why it’s using the filter, but it did not apologize for it and it doesn’t appear as though they will take it down.


“The lens we launched today was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate, and gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music,” a spokesperson told Re/code. “Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley’s music, and we respect his life and achievements.”

Snapchat users will likely bristle at the non-apology, which has been the company’s style in the past under CEO Evan Spiegel, who is, well, unapologetic.

The blackface issue is compounded by the fact that the tech industry is already flogged with regularity for its lack of diversity. The fact that no one inside Snapchat objected to the filter before it was approved demonstrates why the diversity problem is indeed a problem.

But Snapchat is not the only company to run with a product like this — it’s just the only one to get lampooned for it. As my colleague Johana Bhuiyan was quick to point out, Masquerade, an app with a similar facial distortion feature that was gobbled up by Facebook last month, has also used a Marley filter like this. FaceYou, a Baidu app to show off its artificial intelligence technology, had a filter for President Barack Obama.

We’ll update this story again if Snapchat decides to address the issue any further.

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