FaceApp releases change-your-race filters

FaceApp boss Yaroslav Goncharov has defended the new filters. "The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be ...

FaceApp boss Yaroslav Goncharov has defended the new filters. "The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be equal in all aspects."

​FaceApp, an app that uses neural networks to transform your selfies in some rather eerie ways, has now introduced filters that promise to change your racial appearance.

The filters, available in the free version of the app, allow users to upload a selfie and select an Asian, black, Caucasian or Native American filter.

These new filters felt to many like a strange escalation of the racial insensitivity that's already plaguing face swapping and transforming apps.

In fact, FaceApp itself had to pull a "hot" filter in April, after users discovered that the filter was lightening skin.

The app didn't use a diverse enough data set while training the filter to define "hotness", which essentially meant that the filter tried to make everyone look whiter to make them look more attractive. The company apologised.

​As face-swapping apps like FaceApp have gotten better at transforming the faces of their users, the debate over what, exactly, they permit has intensified.

When Snapchat introduced a Bob Marley filter on April, 20, 2016, a lot of people pushed back and said the filter was (a) racist and (b) specifically disrespectful to Marley's legacy (Snapchat said at the time that the filter was developed with the co-operation of Marley's estate).

And later that year, Snapchat introduced (and pulled) an "anime"-inspired filter that had quite a few similarities to racist caricature drawings of Asians.

FaceApp chief executive Yaroslav Goncharov defended the new filters.

"The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be equal in all aspects." 

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"They don't have any positive or negative connotations associated with them. They are even represented by the same icon. In addition to that, the list of those filters is shuffled for every photo, so each user sees them in a different order."

We asked Goncharov if he had a response to those who said the simple existence of the filters, and not the specific way FaceApp executed them, were the issue. He didn't immediately respond.

 - The Washington Post

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