Several TikTokers have called out the video sharing app for applying what appears to be a “beauty filter” without their knowledge or permission. In videos demonstrating the effects of the filter, users pass their hands over the upper half of their face, showing how their features are slimmed and softened when their whole face is revealed.
For many users, the unwanted effect (or bug) came to light after it was highlighted late last month by Tori Dawn, an artist with more than 300,000 followers on the app. “I don’t feel comfortable making videos right now, as long as that’s still a thing,” Dawn says, addressing the filter in a TikTok video. “Because this is not what I look like.”
“The beauty filter is not on… I don’t know how to turn this off. And I don’t feel comfortable looking at myself and presenting myself in a way that isn’t authentic.”
Several other users have shared duets demonstrating the effect — while some don’t see a change when they pass their hands over their face, others are surprised to find that their face is altered in a way they didn’t sign up for. Some also claim that the appearance of their skin changes, despite having no filters turned on.
“Way to shame people for how their face looks TikTok,” writes one creator. Another adds: “I’m comfortable with how I look without this, wtf??”
Reporting on the beauty filter bug, MIT Technology Review reached out to TikTok, and the issue seemingly stopped occurring two days later. TikTok also acknowledged that there was an issue that had been resolved, but didn’t say any more about what had caused it or how many users it affected.
Admittedly, social media’s array of AR face filters can be fun to play around with (see: Instagram’s digital Euphoria make-up) and, for some creators, they constitute a new artistic medium. However, they can also help perpetuate questionable beauty standards (and could have something to do with the boom in botox, and general dissatisfaction with how we look IRL, over lockdown). Either way, not having a say in whether they’re turned on or off at any given time seems like a bad idea.
View a selection of videos showing the beauty filter bug below.