Snapchat rolled out a new Bob Marley filter on 20 April to celebrate 4/20, perhaps the most valued "holiday" in weed culture. However, the social media app is now under fire for releasing the filter, which essentially adds a darker skin tone, dreadlocks and Rastafarian hat to the user.
The Twitterverse erupted in outrage over the filter, labelling it "blackface". Twitter users have also expressed their outrage of how the filter reduces Marley's entire legacy to just a weed gag.
Snapchat has since issued a statement, claiming the filter was launched in honour of Marley's achievements. A Snapchat spokesperson told Recode: "The lens we launched today was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate, and gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music. Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley's music, and we respect his life and achievements."
The unapologetic statement could likely serve to enrage users further, who have already taken to Twitter to rant about Snapchat's latest feature. The filter also brought to the spotlight Silicon Valley's ongoing issue with diversity. The tech community has been widely criticised in the past for its lack of diversity, which is likely to be compounded by Snapchat's decision to release what is seen as a racially insensitive feature.
Blackface as a term gained popularity in the early 19th century in America. The then established entertainment industry capitalised on blackface make-up (characterised by a thick layer of black grease or cocoa butter), to propagate black stereotypes. The lack of diversity is still arguably prevalent in the entertainment industry as witnessed by the recent Oscars boycott.
Snapchat, however, is not the first to introduce a blackface filter. The popular face-swapping app MSQRD, which was recently acquired by Facebook, offered a similar Marley filter to its users months before Snapchat cooked it up. However, after the backlash Snapchat received for rolling out the Marley filter, MSQRD seems to have removed its filter from the app for new users, the NextWeb reported.