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.