Over the past few years since tech companies introduced a series of camera apps, beautification apps have become some of the most sought-after items for smartphone users around the world, users in South Korea being no exception.
With special effects filters and colorful stickers, the advanced camera technology can make us over for the small screen, allowing us to project the image we want. But some of the features, such as skin whitening, have prompted criticism over biased beauty standards.
The debate has taken off in Korea as well, given the country’s widespread obsession with physical appearances and especially the so-called Westernized beauty standards that critics say such apps encourage.
Facebook is part of the controversy too, since the company has incorporated similar appearance-changing features in its camera messenger app. In fact, Korea is the only country outside the United States where Facebook operates a separate camera team.
Describing the camera team’s unique presence in Korea as part of Facebook’s efforts to leverage the country’s increasingly impressive cultural content, such as K-pop, Facebook art producer Gulaya Pizarro disputed the notion that Facebook’s camera technology could foster biased beauty standards in Korea.
From its leadership to its working-level employees, she said, Facebook is more “self-cautious” than other tech firms and takes great care to prevent its messenger app’s camera from perpetuating false notions about monolithic ideals of beauty.
“We are always making sure that we’re sensitive to how people would feel when they use an effect,” Pizarro said in an interview with The Korea Herald last week at Facebook Korea’s headquarters in Seoul.
“We ask ourselves questions on the team all the time, like, is this the right thing to put out there? Is this what users want? And then on the Facebook leadership level, not just in camera, there is a lot of efforts to talk about Facebook as a whole.”
Pizarro, who came here last year, said Korea is a country that leads global trends in technology innovation. Whether it’s fashion or the entertainment business, Korea is full of creative energy that Facebook can tap into, she added.
Given that Facebook’s strength lies in spreading content to global audiences on its open-source platform, Pizarro said her company is seeking to partner with various Korean content providers such as entertainment companies.
For example, Facebook introduced new stickers to its camera messenger app last year, based on imaginary characters inspired by the K-pop idol group BTS. Pizarro said she hoped Facebook would work with Korean designers to bring their products to the Facebook platform.
“We try to find local artists, especially for stickers art, we try to find artists that are in the local area to make content that will resonate with the local users. … They’re not good Korean designers. They’re good designers. We are very excited to have that opportunity here.”