Selfie app in­tro­duces new racial fil­ters

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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 swop­ping and trans­form­ing apps.

In fact, FaceApp had to pull a “hot” fil­ter in April, af­ter users dis­cov­ered 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 the fil­ter tried to make ev­ery­one look whiter to make them look more at­trac­tive. The com­pany apol­o­gised.

FaceApp’s new ad­di­tions were dis­cov­ered by a Mic re­porter who had not deleted the app from her phone af­ter its brief surge to pop­u­lar­ity ear­lier this year. FaceApp sent a push alert to its users about the new fil­ters on Wed­nes­day in or­der to pro­mote them.

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

FaceApp chief ex­ec­u­tive Yaroslav Gon­charov said: “The eth­nic­ity change fil­ters have been de­signed to be equal in all as­pects.

“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.” – Washington Post

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