Snapchat made a very poor judgment in publicizing a filter that prompted people to smile to break chains in observance of Juneteenth.
The company is making claims that somehow the filter slipped through the cracks of their thorough review process after it was critiqued on Friday morning shortly after the release around 11 am eastern time.
“We deeply apologize to the members of the Snapchat community who found this Lens offensive,” a Snap spokesperson said to The Verge. “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. We are investigating why this mistake occurred so that we can avoid it in the future.”
The development of Snapchat filters, formally known as Lens is done by a team from Looksery, which Snapchat acquired back in 2015. The team is based in Ukraine and is not totally familiar with American cultural attitudes– and especially not Black attitudes.
Black Snap employees are always involved in the creation of filters, but they did not see the final product before it went live, which apparently violates Snap’s policies.
Juneteenth is the anniversary of the day in 1965 that the last group of enslaved people from Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclamation that gave slaves freedom. It was more than two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the original document.
Evan Spiegel, Snap CEO, said that Snapchat looks like most other technology companies in terms of representation, heavily skewed towards males and white. Snap is one of the only Silicon Valley companies to never release a diversity report.
The most recent tweet on the Snap Inc. Twitter account, dated June 1, links to a statement from Spiegel and says, “We condemn racism. We must embrace profound change. It starts with advocating for creating more opportunity, and for living the American values of freedom, equality, and justice for all.”