Snapchat Sparks Controversy with Bob Marley Filter

Tim Maytom

Snapchat GlassesSnapchat has drawn criticism from multiple quarters for releasing a Bob Marley-themed filter for its photo and video messaging service that darkens users' skin tone in an attempt to make them resemble the Jamaican singer, in a move that many have compared to 'blackface'.

The Bob Marley filter adds a Jamaican wool hat, similar to the one frequently worn by the singer/songwriter and dreadlocks to users through facial recognition technology, as well as darkening the skin tone of paler users and adding some of Marley's facial features.

The filter was apparently introduced in a bid to commemorate 20 April, a date associated with marijuana culture, which has drawn criticism of its own, both from those who feel its inappropriate for Snapchat to be referencing a drug that is illegal in many of its markets, and those who dislike Marley's memory being linked to drugs, rather than his wider musical legacy.

"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," said a Snapchat spokesperson. "Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley's music, and we respect his life and achievements."

Snapchat's lenses have become an extremely popular tool with users of the app, and have featured brand integration before as the company explores more ways of monetising its large, engaged audience, but it is unlikely the firm will rank this instance as a success.