Snapchat has removed and “deeply apologised” for a new filter themed around the US holiday of Juneteenth, after users found it to be racially insensitive.
Juneteeth is celebrated on June 19, to commemorate the emancipation of the last slaves. Some states and companies recognise it as a paid holiday, and there is a push for it to be observed nationally.
Earlier this week, Snapchat rolled out a commemorative filter for the day, prompting users to “smile” in order to break a series of chains in the background.
The filter was quickly criticised by users for being racially insensitive, among them Ashten Winger, a former developer for the company, who Tweeted:
“… aaaand this is what happens when you don’t have any black people on the product design team. As a Snap alumni, this is extremely embarrassing. It doesn’t have to be this hard”.
aaaand this is what happens when you don’t have any black people on the product design team. As a Snap alumni, this is extremely embarrassing. It doesn’t have to be this hard – how about an AR experience to inform your 229 million daily active users what Juneteenth is? @Snapchat https://t.co/XmVioMcj8B
— 𝙒𝙃𝙊𝙊𝙋𝙄 (@whoopthis) June 19, 2020
In response to criticism, Snapchat pulled the filter and apologised.
We deeply apologize for the offensive Juneteenth Lens. The Lens that went live hadn’t been approved through our review process. We are investigating so this doesn’t happen again.
— Snapchat (@Snapchat) June 19, 2020
Per a statement given to the LA Times, the company said:
“We deeply apologize to the members of the Snapchat community who found this Lens offensive. A diverse group of Snap team members were involved in developing the concept, but a version of the Lens that went live for Snapchatters this morning had not been approved through our review process.”