The corporations are at it again. On June 19th, Snapchat introduced a very misguided Juneteenth filter, and removed it after receiving criticism from Black users over social media. The filter featured a pan-African flag background, was captioned with the words “JUNETEENTH” and “FREEDOM DAY,” and prompted users to “smile.” When the user smiled, chains materialized and broke. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or an app engineer) to realize that telling users to smile into the facial recognition lens to break chains symbolizing centuries of slavery and racist brutality is a tone deaf way to commemorate the holiday. Digital strategist Mark S. Luckie tweeted a video of himself using the filter and showing his dumbfounded reaction, and many others followed suit in the replies.
As former Snap employee and multimedia designer/developer Ashten Winger tweeted, “this is what happens when you don’t have any black people on the product design team.” In 2017, Snapchat faced backlash for its Bob Marley 4/20 filter, which was called “digital blackface.”
Snapchat took down the filter later that morning and issued an apology, stating to CNBC, “A diverse group of Snap team members were involved in developing the concept, but a version of the Lens that went live for Snapchatters this morning had not been approved through our review process.”