In celebration of 4/20, a pseudo-holiday among marijuana lovers, Snapchat launched a lens that lets users transform themselves into reggae icon Bob Marley—replete with blackface. The response has not been positive.
Using lenses on Snapchat is like playing virtual dress-up—users can don wacky makeup, wear a flower crown, or make themselves look like a dog or unicorn. But the Bob Marley lens is a new move for Snapchat, allowing users to look like a well-known, real-life figure.
Snapchatters have been tweeting their confused and angry reactions over the feature, and the company earlier today released the following statement:
The lens we launched today was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate, and 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.
We reached out to Snapchat for more specifics on the approval process that the Marley filter went through, as well as their partnership with the Bob Marley Estate, and were referred to the same statement.
The attempt to celebrate stoner culture comes off as a racially insensitive and tone-deaf move by the social media company, whose user base skews young—really young. Almost half (45%) of Snapchatters are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, and 11% of teenagers, ages 13 to 17 years old, say they use Snapchat more than Facebook or Instagram. This episode will also do nothing to allay concerns about Silicon Valley’s lack of racial diversity.