An executive from Snapchat’s parent company apologized for a controversial Juneteenth filter that slipped through the company’s review processes despite input from black employees.
Oona King, the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion of Snap, shot down allegations that the company launched the filter asking users to smile to “break the chains of slavery” without consulting any black staffers.
“The mischaracterization on social media — that White executives at a tech company failed, yet again, to include Black perspectives — is completely untrue,” King, who is black, told employees in a Saturday letter. “What is true is that regardless of our diverse backgrounds, we are all human, and humans make mistakes.”
King said black employees were “fully involved” in creating and approving the filter but admitted that Snap officials failed to realize how it might offend people on a holiday marking black Americans’ liberation from slavery. Snapchat pulled the filter and apologized after it sparked a backlash Friday.
“This mistake has taught us a valuable lesson, and I am sincerely sorry that it came at the expense of what we meant to be a respectful commemoration of this important day,” King said in the letter, which was published by The Verge. A Snap spokesperson confirmed its authenticity to The Post.
Snap is still looking into where the idea for the so-called “Lens” originated, the company spokesperson said. But black staffers were among those who suggested using smiling to “trigger” the effect while two white employees questioned whether it was appropriate, according to King.
King’s team reviewed the filter “from the standpoint of Black creative content” but failed to consider how it would look when used by people who were not black, she said.
“We feel it is perfectly acceptable as black people to celebrate the end of slavery — as we do with picnics, BBQs, street parties and other forms of celebration across America — and say ‘Smile! Happy Juneteenth; we’re no longer enslaved! But we’re not yet really free either!’” King wrote. “However for a White person to tell a Black person: ‘Smile! You’re no longer slaves’ is offensive in the extreme.”
Unlike other Silicon Valley giants, Snap has never released a report on the diversity of its workforce. The company has plans to publicly release its diversity data, “along with additional context and our plans for meaningful change,” the Snap spokesperson said.