The makers of FaceApp found themselves embroiled last week in what I’m obliged – by the confines of publishing nicety – to refer to as a “faecal cyclone”. The app enables users to doctor photos of themselves so that they can see what they would look like if they were older or of a different gender. It has been a huge success and sparked what has been described as a “viral face mashing trend”, a sentence that, even as I type it, makes me want to throw my computer in the bin after vomiting all over it.
On Wednesday, users of the app found it had been updated to include new filters that allowed users to change their race to “Asian”, “Caucasian”, “Indian” or “black”. The reaction was swift, with users describing the filters as racist. They didn’t even have the decency to change the name to “Race App”. Come on guys, I can’t do all your work for you. Everyone knows people don’t mind racism if it’s delivered with wordplay.
Several journalists described it as “ill advised”, to which my first reaction was: “Did someone advise them to do this?” It opens the possibility of a group of wizened counsellors, like the magi of apps, convening in hushed tones, before declaring: “You should do a thing that makes white people look Chinese.”
One can only assume their next idea is a “poverty” filter that enables rich people to see what their faces would look like if they fell on hard times, allowing them to laugh until they cry, before dabbing away the tears with tissues made of money. The features were quickly removed, but like opening a window after you’ve farted in a car, the damage was already done.
This isn’t even their first brush with race-based controversy. Earlier this year, a feature that allowed users to see what they would look like if they were “hot” caused a stir after users found that it was lightening their skin tone. CEO Yaroslav Goncharov quickly apologised claiming, this was the result of a…