Representatives for Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, did not immediately provide comment.
After the filter launched Friday morning, users began commenting on the odd way in which Snapchat was using the filter to “celebrate” Juneteenth. “This SnapChat #Juneteenth filter is…um…interesting,” digital strategist Mark Luckie wrote in a tweet. “Smile to break the chains? Okay then.”
Multimedia designer/developer Ashten Winger, who previously worked at Snap for more than three years, wrote in a Twitter post about the filter that “this is what happens when you don’t have any black people on the product design team. As a Snap alumni, this is extremely embarrassing. It doesn’t have to be this hard – how about an AR experience to inform your 229 million daily active users what Juneteenth is?”
Another Snapchat user tweeted, “@Snapchat why would you all think a Juneteenth filter should include ‘smiling’ as the key to break the chains of slavery? That was extremely insensitive and disheartening.”
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S., and this year has been adopted by many companies as an official holiday. June 19 marks the date in 1865 — two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation — when a Union Army general informed enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended and they were free.