A developer known as KimberyDeiss produces Android apps to change a user’s photo in specific ways, apps which are available free at Google Play. Titles include “Make Me Frankenstein”, “Make Me Old”, and “Make Me Punk”, among others. These aren’t the only changes that a user can make to his or her photo, however; there are also apps called “Make Me Indian” (by which they mean Native American, not from the subcontinent of India) and “Make Me Asian”. Each of these latter two transforms the user’s photograph into one of a man with racist, stereotypical elements: a “Fu Man Chu” mustache, slanted, narrowed eyes, yellow skin (about as jaundiced as I’ve seen on a kidney patient), and a conical woven straw hat in the case of “Make Me Asian”, and a hipster headband, widened nose, feather, and “war paint” under the eyes in the case of “Make Me Indian”.
To Amazon’s credit, neither of these racist titles is available in their Android app store, nor are any other apps by this developer. The apps are available on Google Play, the largest and the default source for Android apps, on a site called Lisisoft, and on another called Appbrain. Their availability on Google Play is the most troubling, since it is so ubiquitous and installed on all Android devices.
These apps make me furious; they’ve made a lot of people furious. The photo above was taken from Change.org, where an angry DC pastor named Peter Chin has started a petition to pressure Google to take them down. Over 8,000 people have already signed the petition; please share it with your networks to increase the number of signatures.
An article appearing yesterday on Seattle public radio station KUOW’s website discusses the growing outrage over these racist apps. WSJ columnist Jeff Yang, quoted in the article, is right: publishing this sort of thing helps mainstream stereotypes that harm the group being stereotyped. That they are available for free means that young people may be able to download them without letting their parents know that they have installed them. Several reviews of these apps on Google Play indicate that after the first minute of use, porn appears at the bottom of the screen, another obvious problem.
The user is able to not only transform his or her photo (or any other photo) but to share photos from the app on Facebook, via email, or via MMS message. The broken-English description for each encourages sharing transformed photos. Impressionable young people may get the idea that this sort of racism is harmless and fun, especially when the young person can share the racism with his or her friends.
Spreading racism is never good. Please sign Pastor Chin’s Change.org petition and help get these apps off Google Play, where impressionable young people looking for social networking fun can find them. You might also want to contact Google Play’s tech support by logging onto Google Play at play.google.com, scrolling to the bottom of the screen and clicking “Help”, and then, under “Contact Us”, select the “Android apps” link. Google Play’s call-me-back support feature usually brings a return phone call within two minutes and they’re open 24/7. Please be polite, but let them know what the issue is, what you intend to do about it if anything, and the action you’d like them to take.