FaceApp just added 'ethnicity filters,' and it's going about as well as you'd think.

FaceApp went full "Milkshake Duck" on Wednesday, adding filters that let users alter the race of someone in a photo.

It was exactly as cringeworthy as one would expect.

Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes.


GIF from "Dodgeball."

For those not familiar with FaceApp, the iOS and Android app became popular earlier this year, allowing people to morph photos of themselves and others into different ages and genders.

Mostly harmless and a little funny, the app drew some criticism for its "flash" filter (which had the effect of lightening the user's skin tone) and for its ability to put a smile on anyone's face (some said this was sexist). Still, it seemed that most people agreed it was just a bit of fun.

The newly released ethnicity filters, however, drew some quick "WTF?" responses on Twitter.

"For the record I'm mixed white and Indian and I find every part of this offensive," Toby Sinbad Walker added via tweet. "It adds to insecurities about my natural bone structure."

As much as this seems like an obviously bad idea, FaceApp stands behind its product.

CEO Yaroslav Goncharov doesn't see the problem, writing in an email:

"The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be equal in all aspects. They don’t have any positive or negative connotations associated with them. They are even represented by the same icon. In addition to that, the list of those filters is shuffled for every photo, so each user sees them in a different order."

He seems to miss the point just a bit. It’s not the order or the ranking of the filters that’s getting people upset, but the stereotyping mixed with America’s fraught history with blackface that has people feeling uncomfortable.

In a 2015 editorial at The Guardian, writer Sisonke Msimang masterfully explained why "hi-tech blackface" — editing photos to look like a different race — is hurtful. Msimang uses a powerful analogy about an alien visiting Earth and trying to understand the underlying point of changing someone’s race if all groups truly are equal, and how it’s only through looking at the broader context of civilization and systemic inequality that the alien can understand why this is offensive. In other words, this isn’t something that exists in a vacuum.

Worse app ideas probably exist. I just can't think of any right now.

Update 8/9/2017: Goncharov says in an email that the new filters will be removed today.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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