FaceApp Transforms Black, Asian Features to Caucasian Ones, Leading to Blacklash

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2011
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FaceApp allows users to appear younger or look like a different gender. (Wireless Lab OOO)

A popular app allows people to transform their faces with various filters and one of them has led to accusations of whitewashing and racism.

FaceApp, available on iTunes and Google Play, uses artificial intelligence to change users’ faces to make them a different gender, age and have different facial expressions. One of the filters, originally titled, “Hot,” has come under fire for lightening users’ skin tones.

So this app is apparently racist as hell. But at least I'm sassy. #faceapp

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Some showcased well-known Black figures to display the disparency in the filter.

In response, users have taken to social media to criticize the app but also aired their grievances in the app reviews.

Developer Wireless Lab OOO responded to a customer who complained the app did not work well with dark skin tones.

CEO Yaroslav Goncharov issued a statement to BBC Newsbeat echoing remarks the company made to the dissatisfied customer and noting the filter name has been changed from “Hot” to “Spark.”

“We are deeply sorry for this unquestionably serious issue,” he said. “It is an unfortunate side effect of the underlying neural network caused by the training set bias, not intended behavior. To mitigate the issue, we have renamed the effect to exclude any positive connotation associated with it.”

Although the app’s controversial filter has changed, images of customers using it reveal it still has a lightening effect.

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