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Your App Is Problematic

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

Last week, to celebrate stupid weed holiday 4/20, Snapchat released a Bob Marley photo filter. That clumsy math — Bob Marley = pot — wasn’t the most inadvisable part, though. If you used the filter, a set of dreads and Marley’s skin tone floated on top of your head — essentially giving any nonblack user digital blackface. People complained. It was a story. Snapchat issued a nonapology. The public outrage cycle is complete, but this cluelessness still pervades the App Store.

Stereojis: Stereojis is an emoji pack for stereotypes. The “Funky Fresh” pack features black characters, watermelon, fried chicken, waffles, Kool-Aid, purple drink, weed, and teeth with a grill. The “Gung Ho!” pack is Asian-themed, which means you get chopsticks, sushi, a girl doing math, and a man with a Fu Manchu mustache and conical straw hat.

NYC Map the Homeless: This app lets users take photos of the homeless, tapping into a specific strain of deranged NIMBYism that manifests in the shaming of poor people. While it bills itself as a way to help authorities find and “help” the homeless, pulling up the map shows hundreds of user-submitted photos with far nastier agendas. Hashtags include: #Threat, #Psycho, #Sleeping, #Man, #Disgusting. The user names reveal the sympathies of people using the app: Sickntired, DeBlasiodestroysNYC, wheresgiuliani0.

Your Sexy Asian Girlfriend and Kawaii Assistant — Personal Secretary: Both of these apps offer similarly gross takes on the “hot, subservient Asian female” trope. I guess they also take on the “desperate loser who thinks his life will improve with a fictional Asian to command” trope. Either way, ugh forever and ever, amen.

“We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, ‘I’ll know it when I see it.’ And we think that you will also know it when you cross it,” the App Store’s guidelines say. We do know it, and remain very confused.

This piece originally appeared in the April 25, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.