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Video: Snapchat Apologizes After Juneteenth Filter Prompted Users to Smile to Break Chains

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Snapchat apologized Friday for a Juneteenth interactive face filter that prompted users to “smile” in an effort to break chains seen in the background.

The filter went viral after digital strategist and journalist Mark S. Luckie tweeted a video of himself using the filter with the caption “um...interesting.” Luckie’s tweet was also followed by many others pointing out the face filter’s tone deafness.

​​Juneteenth, which takes place on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the US on June 19, 1865. On that date, Union Army Maj. General Gordon Granger told a group of Black slaves in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended and that they were free in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation. 

It wasn’t long until Snapchat removed the filter from its app and issued an apology statement, which was first shared by BuzzFeed News on Friday.

In the statement, Snapchat said that they "deeply apologize to the members of the Snapchat community who found this Lens offensive,” but also noted that “diverse” employees were “involved in developing the concept.” 

However, a company spokesperson also told BuzzFeed News that the filter going live in the first place was an error, as it 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 spokesperson said.

Evan Spiegel, the company’s CEO, also faced backlash last week after he told staff members during a meeting that companies publicly divulging data about their workforce diversity “only reinforces the perception that tech is not a place for underrepresented groups,” Business Insider reported. In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police on May 25 and the protests that have followed, many companies in a variety of fields have publicly released reports on the diversity of their staff.

However, when asked by BuzzFeed whether the company would soon share its diversity reports, the spokesperson said that Snapchat does plan to release them.

"We’re fully committed to publicly releasing our diversity numbers, along with context and meaningful plans for change," they said.

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