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C-list celebs slammed for promoting digital blackface app

The Gradient app uses AI to modify ethnicity in user photos

Former cast members of Keeping Up with the Kardashians have been slated for promoting an app that uses AI to alter profile photos so they look like different races.

Brody Jenner and Scott Disick — as well as influencer Danielle Cohn — recently posted profile photos that were fed through the Gradient’s “AI Face” feature.

Disick’s initial tweet showed his face modified to appear that he’s from Europe, Asia, and India.“Tried new filters in the Gradient app,” he wrote. “Which one is better?”

A raft of critics on social media accused them of dehumanizing Black people and stereotyping entire continents, while others wondered whether the app‘s developers know that India is in Asia.

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Disick and Jenner have now deleted their original tweets and replaced them with new posts hashtagged #ad but with comments turned off, while Cohn has kept her video on TikTok.

The duo aren’t the first members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan to promote apps accused of propagating racism.facial recognition

In 2016, Kylie Jenner used Snapchat’s “Bob Marley” filter to make her look like a Black man with dreadlocks, while in April, Kim and Khloe Kardashian advertised Gradient’s “Ethnicity Estimate.” The feature’s been criticized for equating nationality with ethnicity and using flags of countries to represent entire continents or religions. In the case of the Caribbean, the region gets a Jolly Roger flag. 

Gradient isn’t the first AI-powered app accused of promoting digital blackface. FaceApp previously had a similar feature, but wisely ditched the filter hours after its launch.

Hopefully, Gradient does the same and sticks to its more harmless features such as finding celebrity lookalikes and turning photos into 15th-century photos. But users should be advised that the app has also sparked previous concerns.

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Published September 24, 2020 — 18:56 UTC