A new filter released by Snapchat that makes users look like Bob Marley has caused a storm on social media, with many describing it as “digital blackface”.

Fans of the iconic Jamaican singer, who died in 1981, have expressed anger at the filter released on Wednesday morning, arguing that it alters the user’s skin colour to make them appear darker as well as more angular, as well as adding dreadlocks and a Rastafarian cap.

The date of the filter’s release – April 20th, or 4/20, an informal annual holiday for cannabis users – means that it could merely be a temporary function, but it hasn’t quelled the ire of social media, calling the move culturally insensitive and tone-deaf.

Other applications by rival companies, such as MSQRD which was recently acquired by Facebook, have similar functions that make users look like the famous reggae singer, adding in dreadlocks, sunglasses and a cap. It doesn’t, however, alter the user’s skin colour, which is one of the sticking points of the current complaint against Snapchat's new filter.

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A spokesperson for Snapchat, contacted by the Huffington Post, assured angry fans that the project was undertaken with the permission of, and in partnership with, the Bob Marley Estate.

“[It] gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music,” the spokeswoman said. “Millions of Snapchatters have enjoyed Bob Marley’s music, and we respect his life and achievements.”

However, one social media user responded that Snapchat’s move was to make a great musician appear like a “mascot to white hippies”. Another added: “Snapchat's half-baked 4/20 nod is a Bob Marley blackface filter?! Dude was Jamaican! Did waaaay more than smoke weed.”

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