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App creator apologizes for 'racist' filter that lightens users' skin tone

Jack Morse

The makers of FaceApp are backtracking after users accused the popular face-morphing app of racism.

According to the company, the app will "transform your face using Artificial Intelligence in just one tap!" Selfie-takers can make their photos look old, force a smile onto their otherwise grumpy mug, or beautify themselves. 

SEE ALSO: Viral selfie-morphing FaceApp launches on Android after huge iOS success

Troublingly, this last option, labeled as "hot," appears to lighten users' skin tone.

Mashable reached out to FaceApp founder and CEO Yaroslav Goncharov about the criticism, and he was quick to apologize. 

"We are deeply sorry for this unquestionably serious issue," wrote Goncharov. "It is an unfortunate side-effect of the underlying neural network caused by the training set bias, not intended behavior. To mitigate the issue, we have renamed the effect to exclude any positive connotation associated with it."

Indeed, if you download the app today the "hot" option is now labeled "spark" (at least for iOS). Goncharov further told Mashable that his team is "working on the complete fix that should arrive soon."

This is not the first time that an app has been accused of racism for altering users' appearance. Snapchat has been called out for a Bob Marley filter that put people in blackface and what critics called its "yellowface" filter.  

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