Snapchat Slammed For 420 Blackface Bob Marley Filter

Critics accuse social media service of racially insensitive screen on unofficial marijuana holiday

420 is supposed to be about rollin’ and chillin’, but Snapchat has stirred up a tense response with its politically incorrect filter meant to celebrate the late reggae icon and weed lover Bob Marley.

To celebrate the unofficial holiday devoted to pot, the social-media service produced a filter that can make users look like the “Stir It Up” singer, complete with dreadlocks — and digital blackface.

On Twitter and elsewhere, critics have slammed Snapchat for racial insensitivity. And Marley’s fans have lashed out at the idea that, after helping spread reggae music around the world, the Jamaican superstar is being reduced to just an ambassador of weed usage. (Marley was a strong advocate of cannabis, promoting it as part of his Rastafarian beliefs.)

For the uninitiated, 420 has grown into an informal day of celebration for pot enthusiasts. Supposedly named after the time of day that high school students in Marin County would meet up to light up after classes in the 1970s (other explanations for the name have emerged as well), 420 has evolved over the past forty years and helped push marijuana use into the mainstream.

Snapchat was still providing the filter as of midday Wednesday. But the company tried to tamp down the controversy with a statement:

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

But that isn’t likely to silence some of the critics.