Bob Marley Snapchat Backlash

"Snapchat" by AdamPrzezdziek is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Snapchat was bombarded with criticism yesterday following their latest face recognition filter.

Their regularly changing range of filters was updated on Wednesday 20th April to include an option to ‘look like’ iconic reggae singer Bob Marley.

Being released on 20th April seems to have been an ill-advised strategy, as 20th April or 4/20 is a significant date in worldwide cannabis culture. Supporters of ‘4/20’ use this date to publicly assemble and celebrate use of the drug.

The barrage of disapproval has been staged on Twitter, where most outrage revolves around claiming Snapchat reducing Marley’s legacy to a stereotype.

Others have displayed their outrage of the filter, claiming it’s a form of ‘Blackface’ – a theatrical makeup originating from the 19th century where performers would imitate a black person. Blackface was based on stereotypes and caricatures and therefore, significantly contributed to the growth of racist attitudes and perceptions worldwide.

Snapchat were pushed for a statement yesterday afternoon:

“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.”

Snapchat, owned by its original Student creators Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and other venture-investors has been rapidly increasing its popularity over the past few years. In September they released their animated selfie lenses, following the acquisition of similar app Looksery. The new lens was revolutionary for Snapchat who were deemed to be slowing their ascendancy. Now they specialise in these user manipulated, rapidly expiring filters, that offers you to change your selfie into a skeleton, give you a rainbow tongue or in this instance racially offend and reduce a beloved singer’s legacy to a mere stereotype.

High-profile Snapchat users Kylie Jenner elicited a great deal of criticism for posting several videos of her playing around with the new filter:

The lenses/filters regularly expire and reappear as an option a few days later. The Bob Marley filter conveniently disappeared as an option yesterday afternoon and I’d be very surprised if we see it back amongst the options in the near future.

Comment below with your opinion of the Bob Marley filter controversy.


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