The popular selfie-editing program FaceApp was forced to remove its ethnicity filters feature Wednesday just hours after it was released, following a public outcry calling the feature insensitive and racist.
The update gave FaceApp users new filters to make their selfies look like of different races. The four filters are "Asian," "Black," "Caucasian," and "Indian." Users of the app immediately went to social media to protest the augmented reality (AR) software's new feature. Some called it a terrible idea while others outright condemned it for being racist.
"FaceApp's 'ethnicity filters' are a pretty terrible idea. Like, maybe one of the worst ideas," said one Twitter user.
"FaceApp really setting the bar for racist AR with its awful new update," said another.
The Russian software company initially issued a statement defending the feature, claiming that all the filters were "designed to be equal in all aspects" and that there are no connotations associated with them.
"They don't have any positive or negative connotations associated with them," said the company's chief executive Yaroslav Goncharov, adding, "They are even represented by the same icon." In addition to that, the company also designed the update so that the filters are shuffled for every photo, so that the users see them in a different order every time a photo filter is generated.
Still, this did not stop the negative reactions and criticisms thrown at the company. As a result, by 5 p.m. on the same day, FaceApp pulled out the new filters from the app.
This is not the first time the company has encountered such a problem. In April, it drew flak after its "hot" filter which automatically lightened a user's complexion. The company has since apologized for it, claiming that it was an unintended side-effect of the "neural network." The app kept the filter available, but renamed it "spark."