Snapchat users, you might want to consider hanging up the flower crown.
Snapchat is currently being called out on social media for "whitewashing," through filters that lighten skin tone. This comes shortly after the app released a "Bob Marley face filter" and faced outrage over "digital blackface."
These filters — which range from a filter where the user wears a flower crown, another making the user's eyes bigger and face slimmer — all noticeably soften skin's appearance and adjust the photo's lighting.
Twitter users of colour noticed that these Snapchat's beauty filters made them appear paler.
— Natalie (@nnewsom) March 9, 2016
Ahhhhh snapchat made my namesake a filter, yasssssssss 🌟⭐️✨💫 (but that skin-whitening and face-narrowing 😒) pic.twitter.com/Lhw8l8vzmy
— TMM (@mangiferin) January 25, 2016
— 火災プリンセス (@ashiieeeee) February 19, 2016
it's a good day to play with snapchat filters (and get white washed) pic.twitter.com/CsLVVzADO3
— shriya (@danradcliffed) May 6, 2016
Did anyone realize that the flower crown/coachella filter on snapchat literally makes you whiter?? like...it...white...washes...you....
— ko (@ko_star) April 21, 2016
Real talk though: can snapchat keep the flower crown filter but take the skin lightening thing away b/c 🤔.
— cai (@ursuIas) April 30, 2016
Can we just talk about how the flower crown filter makes you whiter and the Bob Marley one is straight up blackface. snapchat wtf r u doing
— Kayla Shapiro (@alright_oh_kay) April 20, 2016
Even white people on Twitter took offence to the beauty filters, many of them complaining their retouched selfies appeared paler than they were before.
I love the flower crown filter on snapchat but I hate that it makes me whiter than I already am
— daya (@DianeTheUnicorn) April 18, 2016
Snapchat needs to get out of here with the edits that make me whiter than I already am🖕🏼
— RyLee Gross (@RyleeGross) April 15, 2016
I didn't think I could get any whiter but then snapchat added a flower crown filter pic.twitter.com/5pzSg4WIUC
— Kaitlin Ladlee (@kladlee) April 15, 2016
If I wasn't white enough snapchat added a filter to make me look even whiter 😒 smh😂
— Bo Coleman (@gseries_bo) March 24, 2016
Although Snapchat hasn't released a statement on the social media outrage, a lot could be said on why the filter was created. It mimics similar photo manipulation apps from Asia, that also transform selfies into lighter, slimmer, and wider-eyed versions of users.
Snapchat's mirror similar skin-lightening controversies that have occurred within the fashion industry, such as Lupita Nyong'o's February 2014 Vanity cover.
— ☔️ April ☔️ (@ReignOfApril) January 15, 2014
Brightness, exposure, and lighting are aspects controlled by these filters, which are still technical issues for even professional photographers and film editors, who must change lighting for images and movies when subjects with varying skin tones are in the same shot.
Photography as a medium has a history of inability to process or consider darker skin tones. It was first developed to capture lighter skin tones. In an NPR interview, photographer Syreeta McFadden discusses the skin biases to photo-taking that continues to plague technology to this day.
"I think it matters because we're talking about a saturation of images of darker skinned people that somehow we've accepted in our popular culture that kind of diminishes our humanity," she said.
Deliberate or not, Snapchat's beauty filters were meant to enhance features that were assumed to be desirable. It's clear that the difficulties in broadening definitions of beauty, digitally and otherwise, are more than skin-deep.