Filters allow users to alter their photos: adding floral crowns or transforming them into scary zombies or cute dogs.
Its newest filter, released on Tuesday, was supposed to be an homage to anime — the Japanese cartoon art form. The filter pulled users eyes down into slanted lines, enlarged their cheeks and made their front teeth more prominent if smiling. Many felt the filtered images were reminiscent of racist caricatures of Asians that were prolific during World War II and featured in films like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” where a slant-eyed, buck-toothed Mickey Rooney portrayed a Japanese man in yellowface.
Grace Sparapani, a Korean-American art student, tweeted a caricature next to a filtered snap, writing “Snapchat, wanna tell me why u thought this yellowface was okay??”
— grace (@tequilafunrise) August 9, 2016
In an email to the Times, she added, “it’s hard to argue with the side by side comparison of the very gross Asian caricature and the filter’s effects. It shows that the filter isn’t just yellowface, but yellowface taken to its derogatory extreme.”
Other Snapchat users who tried the filter called it “racist.” One even asked the company, “when can we expect Blackface?”
Snapchat previously came under fire for a filter that already seemingly accomplished that. A Bob Marley-inspired filter released on April 20, 2016, that darkened user’s skin color and added dreadlocks was met with similar criticism. Snapchat told reporters that the filter was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate. “Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley’s music, and we respect his life and achievements,” the company added.
As for its latest filter, the company explained to the Verge that it was inspired by anime and meant to be playful. Snapchat has since removed the offending filter and does not plan to resurface it in the future.