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Snapchat Removes Offensive Juneteenth Filter Following Criticism

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, has removed a controversial Juneteenth filter that was criticized by its users as being racially insensitive. The company has apologized for the filter.

The filter, which Snap calls "lenses", showed the Pan-African flag in the background and prompted users to "smile and break the chains" of slavery. The image of a chain would then appear in the background behind the user and the chain would then break.

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the U.S. It is celebrated annually on June 19.

The racially insensitive filter, released on Friday, comes amid protests in the U.S. over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody. Snap was accused of failing to include Black perspectives in the creation of the filter.

"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 said on Twitter.

Snapchat said that the filter concept was created by a diverse group of its team members, but the final version of the lens that went live had not been approved through the company's review process.

In an internal email sent by Oona King, Snap's VP of Diversity and Inclusion, to the company and published by The Verge, King said Snapchat failed to recognize the gravity of the "smile" trigger.

"I'm hoping many people will understand how the same word can be appropriate in one context, but inappropriate in another, depending on who is using it. Regardless, we should not have used smiling as a trigger to break the chains of slavery in the Lens, and we understand why that was offensive," King said in the letter.

King added that the mischaracterization on social media that white executives at the company failed to include Black perspectives is completely untrue.

Snap has been criticized earlier too for racial insensitivity. In 2016, the company released a Bob Marley filter that put darkened a user's skin and also released another filter that 'whitewashed' users' skin tones in selfies.

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