Snapchat really steps in it with Bob Marley lens

Steven Loeb · April 20, 2016 · Short URL:

Users accused it of promoting blackface, and for dishonoring Marley's legacy on 4/20

Snapchat filters can be cool, if you're making yourself throw up a rainbow, or swapping faces with your baby. Then it's all fun and games.

When you start putting people in blackface though... then, not so much.

Snapchat managed to piss off a whole lot of people on Wednesday, with a new filter that allowed people to dress themselves up like Bob Marley, with darkened skin and dreadlocks.

Here's what that looks like:

Yup, pretty offensive, I'd say. So, of course, Twitter went crazy.

There's another reason that people were pretty angry at this: the date. Today is 4/20, aka a national holiday for pot smokers. Marley was from Jamaica, and was a Rastafarian, a religion that sees cannabis as sacramental. So, yeah, Bob Marley got high a lot. 

However many took offense that Snapchat seemed to be celebrating this aspect of his life above all others.

This was a pretty dumb, and easily avoidable, mistake on Snapchat's part. The date is obvious, but the idea of letting white people turn themselves into a black man should never have made it past the idea stage

Not to let Snapchat off the hook here, but they aren't the only similar service to offer this type of feature. As others have pointed out, Masquerade, a face-swapping app that was bought by Facebook in March, had something akin to the Bob Marley filter, by allowing users to put "masks" over their faces that looked like President Obama and Snoop Dogg.

Here's what that looked like:

I think you could make the argument that that is less offensive; it's akin to putting on a rubber Obama mask, rather than going and painting your skin another color. Or perhaps they are both equally offensive, though there was nowhere near the same backlash against it as there was for Snapchat. 

Either way, though, Masquerade has since pulled those filters, which is probably the best idea.

When I reached out to Snapchat for a comment on the snafu, the company pointed out that the lens was "created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate."

The company also said it "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."

So, backlash or no, it seems like Snapchat is sticking to its guns. 

(Image source:

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