Gradient, a photo-editing app, is facing new controversy for its feature that allows people to alter their ethnicity in images. The app’s website advertises the feature, “Find out how you would look like if you were born on a different continent.” Social media users are accusing Gradient of promoting digital blackface.
The feature, called AI Face, was promoted on social media by Keeping Up With the Kardashians stars Scott Disick and Brody Jenner. Disick shared what he would look like in “Europe,” “Asia,” and “India,” while Jenner showed what he would look like in “Africa,” “Asia,” and “India.”
Many were quick to reply to their posts, specifically calling out Jenner for digital blackface with his “Africa” edit, which visibly darkened his skin. Users also reminded both Jenner and Disick that India is part of Asia.
Disick also shared the photo to his Instagram, where he disabled comments.
Gradient’s “AI” editing isn’t limited to AI Face. They offer “You Look Like” and “Animal You Look Like,” which matches users to celebrities and animals they look like. Another feature, “Your Ethnicity Estimate,” acts as a gimmicky DNA test where the app uses an algorithm to analyze a user’s facial features to determine their ethnic background.
According to Input Magazine, there are discrepancies between the app’s website and the actual app itself. The AI Face’s “Africa” option has been swapped out with “Brazil” — the edit that landed Jenner in hot waters. Their report also included that Your Ethnicity Estimate is missing from the app entirely despite being advertised on their website.
Last year, the Gradient app was thrown into the spotlight thanks to the Celebrity look-a-like feature. At the time, the feature was promoted by multiple members of the Kardashian family — Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe Kardashian and Disick. Earlier this year, Kim Kardashian also promoted the Your Ethnicity Estimate feature.
Gradient’s History of Controversy
Questionable filters and features aside, Gradient has been heavily scrutinized for its expensive, automatically-renewing subscription.
Last year, Mashable reported that users had to agree to a three-day “free trial” to test the popular lookalike feature. This led to many users unknowingly agreeing to a $19.99 monthly subscription that automatically-renewed once the three-day trial was over.
“We do not collect or store images and Face Data and we do not transfer it to third parties,” a Gradient spokesperson told Mashable last year. “A simple traffic analysis of our app can prove the fact that no private data is sent, including images and Face Data. This data never leaves the app, it stays private and is fully owned by the user.”