The app is apologising after it released a “Smile and Break the Chains” lens filter in recognition of Juneteenth.
The filter was released Friday morning and was quickly criticised by users, who took to social media to call it “tone deaf”. It was removed from Snapchat around 11:00am EST the same day.
The filter, which featured the Pan-African flag in the background, asked users to smile, in order to break the chains that appeared behind them. The words “JUNETEENTH” and “FREEDOM DAY” also appeared in the caption.
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
Writing in a statement that was later published to Twitter, the app said:
“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.”
Juneteenth is the anniversary of the day in 1865, when slaves in Texas were informed by a general with the US army that the Civil War had ended and that slavery had been abolished. The news came approximately two months after the Confederate army surrendered to the Union forces, and more than two years after Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
As aforementioned, numerous users took to Twitter to share their dismay over the lens filter, with many taking notice of it after a tweet from digital strategist Mark S. Luckie went viral.
This SnapChat #Juneteenth filter is…um…interesting.
Smile to break the chains? Okay then. pic.twitter.com/Wyob3kT3ew
— Mark S. Luckie (@marksluckie) June 19, 2020
A former Snapchat employee, Ashten Winger, shared that “this is what happens when you don’t have any black people on the product team”, before going on to ask why Snapchat hadn’t created “an AR experience to inform your 299 million daily actives users what Juneteenth is”.
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
Snapchat is currently looking into the factors that led to the filter’s release.