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FaceApp apologises for ‘racist’ filter which lightens users’ skintone

The creator of an app which changes your selfies using artificial intelligence has apologised because its “hot” filter automatically lightened people’s skin.

FaceApp is touted as an app which uses “neural networks” to change facial characteristics, adding smiles or making users look older or younger. But users noticed one of the options, initially labelled as “hot” made people look whiter.

Yaroslav Goncharov, the creator and CEO of FaceApp, apologised for the feature, which he said was a side-effect of the “neural network”.

He said: “We are deeply sorry for this unquestionably serious issue.

“It is an unfortunate side-effect of the underlying neural network caused by the training set bias, not intended behaviour.”

The feature is still available but has now been renamed “spark”, in an attempt to “exclude any positive connotation associated with it”, Goncharov said.

He added: “We are also working on the complete fix that should arrive soon.”

In previous interviews Goncharov, who is a former Microsoft and Yandex engineer, said FaceApp differs from other face-tuning software, which usually adds filters, because it uses deep learning technology to alter the photo itself.

(@kharyrandolph)

So this app is apparently racist as hell. But at least I’m sassy. #faceapp https://t.co/I0L4yWWXaV pic.twitter.com/v1ME8H8seP

April 18, 2017 kung fu khary

He told TechCrunch in February: “We believe that such entertaining effects are subject to trends, but photorealism is timeless

“In addition to a sound product concept, we think that we are quite ahead in terms of technology.”

The app came out in January on iOS and then on Android in February, but has surged in popularity in the last few weeks.

(@lindsaygoldwert)

I used FaceApp on the men of the GOP. I call it "Too Many Pams." pic.twitter.com/nLvOjLGNXo

April 24, 2017 Lindsay Goldwert

This is by no means the first time an app which changes people’s faces have been criticised for racial insensitivity.

Snapchat’s filters have come under fire on several occasions. Last year it was criticised for promoting “yellowface” after it released a filter which allowed users to turn their selfies into Asian caricatures. Prior to that, a Bob Marley filter was dubbed “the digital equivalent of blackface”.