Fu Manchu moustaches seem more popular among Asian people in movies than in real life, but that didn't stop an app called "Make Me Asian" from making them an essential part of the app's photo transformation.
"Make Me Asian" and a similar app, "Make Me Indian," have prompted an online petition calling for their removal from the Google App store. The apps overlay photos of the user's face with hair, headgear and other accessories that hark back to old stereotypes.
"I created the petition as a means of saying, 'No, this kind of stereotype is not acceptable to me, and to many others, and we will not simply shake our heads but accept it as our fate,'" Peter Chin, a Washington, D.C.-based pastor who started the petition, told KoreAm Journal. The petition, hosted on Change.org, had about 1,800 signatures as of this writing.
The apps were created by the user KimberyDeiss. A look into KimberyDeiss' oeuvre shows several other photo-altering apps, including "Make Me Old," "Make Me Frankenstein" and a "Photo Maker" app that distorts photos of faces the way funhouse mirrors do. Besides the apps Chin is petitioning against, KimberyDeiss has created two other apps that draw on stereotypes: "Make Me Russian" and "Make Me Irish."
Compared with its competitor Apple, Google is much more permissive about what apps appear in its Play Store, as Android apps don't undergo review by the company. Nevertheless, Google's policies state that some apps are inappropriate. Google's developer policy includes a clause for hate speech, which may cover KimberyDeiss' racial apps, as they contain visual racial slurs. Google has an online form for requests to take down inappropriate apps.
User reviews also point to other problems with the apps.
"First off, Russian spam hits the screen then within a minute, porn is on the bottom banner," said one review for "Make Me Indian."
"Instantly locked phone. Couldn't even turn it off, had to remove battery," said another, for "Make Me Irish."