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Snapchat Has Had to Remove Several Filters From its App After Facing Criticism

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Snapchat was recently in the news after the company announced that they were removing a filter designed to commemorate Juneteenth because it was racially insensitive. This isn't the first time the company has faced these kinds of issues with a filter, and it's led some to wonder whether Snapchat is considering removing filters altogether beginning next year. 

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Is Snapchat removing filters in 2021?

Although Snapchat has faced issues with some of its filters, there have been no announcements suggesting the company plans to get rid of filters altogether. A core part of the company's success has come from the filters users can play with, and it seems unlikely the company would want to put that success at risk by removing the filters from the app. 

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What was the problem with the Juneteenth filter?

The filter asked users to "smile to break the chains," referencing the official end of slavery, which is what the holiday commemorates. After the filter went live, some users on social media weighed in suggesting that they found it offensive, in large part because it suggested slavery was ended by happiness. Following the backlash, the filter was retracted and the company offered an apology. 

"We deeply apologize to the members of the Snapchat community who found this Lens offensive," a Snapchat said speaking with CNN. "A diverse group of Snap team members were involved in developing the concept, but a version of the Lens that went live for Snapchatters this morning had not been approved through our review process." The spokesperson also said that the incident is being investigated. 

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Following the death of George Floyd in police custody, many companies placed new or increased attention on Juneteenth, and some even offered their employees the day off to commemorate the holiday. For Snapchat, the decision to celebrate the holiday was in the right spirit, but the filter was not the right way to go about it. 

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This is not the first time Snapchat has faced a racial controversy.

In 2016, the company released a filter that was meant to celebrate Bob Marley. The filter added dreadlocks to a person's face and darkened their skin color as well. Naturally, the filter prompted accusations of blackface and was eventually removed. That same year, they also faced criticism for adding a filter that featured squinty, smiling eyes and bright red cheeks. That filter was accused of yellowface. 

Snapchat's parent company may not be very diverse.

SNAP, the company that owns Snapchat, is one of the only companies that doesn't release an annual diversity report. As a result, CNN reports that it's difficult to know how diverse the company is as a whole. The company's cofounder Bob Murphy did say they were working on a way to release their diversity numbers. 

"We want to be careful not to normalize the numbers across the tech industry, because I think in some cases with everybody publishing their numbers, it can feel as an acceptance of the way things are," Bob said. "Those diversity numbers are published internally, and we use them as a marker to make progress for ourselves, and our team is in fact working on a way to publish those numbers and represent the progress we at least hope to be making for our company." 

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