This past Friday, Snapchat released a filter for Juneteenth that allowed users to "smile and break the chains." After receiving a wave of criticism and backlash, the company apologized for the tone-deafness of the filter and removed it shortly after it was released. A Snapchat spokesperson told The Verge that the concept for the filter was developed by a diverse group of creators and that the filter that went live on Friday was not submitted for a review process.
The filters found in the app are developed by a team from Looksery, a company which Snapchat acquired in 2015. According to a source familiar with the matter, the Looksery team is based in the Ukraine, a fact that may have led to a lack of knowledge on American cultural attitudes. The same source confirmed that black Snapchat employees were involved in the creation of the filter but were not aware of the "smile and break the chains" feature.
The filter controversy followed the release of a report that stated that the CEO of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, has delayed the publication of the company's diversity statistics. In an interview with CNBC, Spiegel stated that the company is developing a new way to release the information about its diversity as well as making public their plans to increase representation both at Snapchat and in the tech industry. He also commented on the demographics of the company, stating that it "looks like most technology companies in terms of representation." The majority of companies in the Silicon Valley are composed by a primarily male and white workforce.
In a recent tweet, Snapchat announced its commitment towards embracing profound change and condemning racism in order to uphold the American values of "freedom, equality, and justice for all." However, this is not the first time that a Snapchat filter has been subject to controversy. In 2016, the company released two filters that resembled blackface and yellowface. Both filters were removed after being called out by the community of users as offensive and tone-deaf.