When FaceApp went from a curious gimmick to a full-blown viral sensation earlier this year, it was proof that random, quirky apps could still catch fire on the App Store. It gained a lot of attention in a very short time, reaching the top of the download charts and gaining lots and lots of fans. Seemingly unhappy with how beloved the app had become, the developers launched a new update this week that added “ethnicity” filters, and subsequently ruined its reputation in one fell swoop. Bravo.
It’s not particularly hard to see the issue here. The filters — which were named simply Asian, Black, Caucasian and Indian — turn anyone’s photo into a strange ethnic caricature of the real person. Many, many of FaceApp’s millions of users saw the filters as racist, and saw the very obvious potential for misuse and harassment.
FaceApp reacted swiftly to the instant backlash and yanked the new filters via an update to the app shortly after adding them, but the damage to the app’s name may already be done.
What’s particularly puzzling about the decision to add the ethnicity filters is that FaceApp already dealt with a similar issue when the app first rolled out. An early version of the app included a filter called “Hot” that lightened skin tones in its users’ photos. The company tweaked the filter and then apologized for its very obvious misstep.
Apparently the developer didn’t actually learn anything from that whole episode and decided to double-down. We’ll see how the app recovers going forward, but it definitely has some work to do.