On Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General, filed a lawsuit against Meta, the technology company behind WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, and many others.
Attorney General Paxton claimed the platform's use of facial recognition technology violated the Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act or CUBI, the law regulating the use of personal data such as retina scans and fingerprints. What happened next? Did Texas "ban" certain Instagram and Facebook filters?
Why did Texas ban Instagram filters? Here's what you should know.
Attorney General Paxton filed a lawsuit accusing Meta of failing to comply with the CUBI, a piece of legislation concerning the use and storage of biometric data, in February 2022. A similar lawsuit was filed in the state of Illinois in the spring of 2022, likely sparking further debate about privacy.
On Wednesday, May 11, 2022, Meta announced its decision to temporarily disable the use of certain Instagram and Facebook filters in Texas and Illinois. The step aims to prevent further litigation concerning the use of facial recognition technology.
"Any filters using facial geometry, like augmented reality filters, cannot be used within state lines [in Texas and Illinois]," Meta wrote in a statement shared with Complex. "The technology we use to power augmented reality effects like avatars and filters is not facial recognition or any technology covered by the Texas and Illinois laws, and is not used to identify anyone."
"Nevertheless, we are taking this step to prevent meritless and distracting litigation under laws in these two states based on a mischaracterization of how our features work," reads the statement. "We remain committed to delivering AR experiences that people love, and that a diverse roster of creators use to grow their businesses, without needless friction or confusion."
Instagram and Facebook users eager to access filters will come upon a "temporarily unavailable" message starting from Wednesday, May 11, 2022. In the press release, Meta confirmed that they made a preventive step to avoid further legal complications — which suggests that the relevant filters may become available again in the future.
The unexpected step sparked strong responses.
"Instagram banned filters in Texas, so I hope you b---hes got good personalities [sic]," tweeted @itsjulianaab.
"Instagram filters are illegal in Texas? How am I supposed to live, laugh, catfish in these conditions?" tweeted @bbyunic0rn.
Meta is thought to be working on an opt-in system allowing Instagram users to regain access to filters in the future.
Social media users in those states shouldn't lose all hope immediately. Not every filter was banned in Texas and Illinois— plus, Meta has already announced that it is working on a new system that will enable users to access filters in the future.
Social media users living in Texas and Illinois who are eager to experiment with filters will likely have to wait until the new system is put into place.