A SiliconBeat reporter tries out the new Bob Marley Snapchat filter. (Marisa Kendall, The Mercury News)

Snapchat’s new Bob Marley filter slammed as ‘digital blackface’

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Snapchat’s attempt to celebrate popular marijuana holiday 4/20 may have been half baked.

The Los Angeles-based photo messaging app launched a new Bob Marley filter Wednesday that lets users turn themselves into the Jamaican reggae icon. The filter gives the user dreadlocks and darkens his or her skin tone, a feature critics have dubbed “digital blackface.”

The Internet exploded after the new filter made its debut. “Hoo boy. It’s bad. It’s very bad,” Wired wrote. Gizmodo called it “in extremely poor taste.” Snapchat users took to Twitter to bash the filter, calling it racist and disrespectful. Critics on Twitter also complained that tying Marley to a day that celebrates all things marijuana reduces his legacy to that of a pothead. Marley was open about his marijuana use, giving it spiritual and religious connotations, but his musical contributions extend far beyond the drug.

A Snapchat representative defended the filter in a statement emailed to Silicon Beat.

“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,” the representative wrote. “Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley’s music, and we respect his life and achievements.”

This story was first published on The Mercury News blog SiliconBeat