Snapchat yellowface lens
Twitter / TansuPhilip

Snapchat ignited a storm on social media after the multimedia messaging app decided to add a new filter to its array of quirky lenses. While the company claimed that the lens was "anime-inspired", outspoken users took to Twitter, renaming the "racist" filter "Yellowface".

The controversial filter transformed users faces by overlaying their normal features with closed, slanted eyes, a thinned jawline, rosy cheeks and enlarged front teeth. While the majority of the app's playful lenses are dedicated to animals and cartoon effects, this latest filter was called out for its similarity to that of racist Asian stereotypes.

The Californian company have since pulled the ill-judged lens, stating that it will not be "put back into circulation" in the future. Snapchat later explained to Mashable that "lenses are meant to be playful and never to offend."

But offend it did. Twitter user "tequilafunrise" was among the first to highlight the troubling similarities to archaic caricatures of Asian people on 9 August.

Many others followed, which prompted the wider circulation of Twitter hashtags #yellowface and #DeleteSnapchat.

The understandable backlash to "yellowface" is hardly surprising considering the nature of the images shared on social media, although you would expect that Snapchat would know better at this point as this is far from the first time it has courted controversy, or even been accused of racial insensitivity.

On 20 April, 2016, the iOS and Android app introduced a lens inspired by the late Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley in celebration of 4/20 - a holiday popularised by marijuana smokers. The filter, which added dreadlocks and a Rastafarian 'tam' to the selfie subject was roundly criticised for also darkening the user's face.

The skin colour alteration was immediately compared to "blackface" stereotypes, while Marley fans also reacted poorly to the suggestion that the much-loved artist's legacy was exclusively related to his widely documented use of cannabis.