Māori face tattoo filter removed from Snapchat, analysts say ‘huge disrespect’ to culture

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After the discovery of culturally inappropriate filters on social media applications sparked a backlash in New Zealand, the social media corporation that controls Snapchat removed filters that put photos of sacred Mori tattoos on users’ faces. 

As per a Radio New Zealand investigation, t’moko tattoo-themed filters are widely available on social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. 

T-moko is a taonga, or treasure, for the indigenous people of New Zealand and symbolises the wearer’s Mori ancestry. 

The filters have reignited discussions about how sacred cultural artefacts are handled on tech platforms and whether or not New Zealand should give them stronger legal safeguards.

At the time of publication, The Guardian saw at least ten of these user-made Instagram filters, all of which had names that featured “Mori” or “moko.” Instagram’s parent company, Meta, did not reply to a request for comment. 

After a New Zealand-based writer expressed concerns from the Mori community about the tools, Snap, which owns Snapchat, informed the Guardian that it had deleted one such filter, called a Lens, off its platform along with a duplicate.

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The business informed the Guardian in an unnamed statement that “we encourage our community to create Lenses that are inclusive and any shared on Snapchat must comply with our community guidelines. These are clear that we prohibit content that demeans, defames, or promotes discrimination.” 

T moko is only for Mori. Since each is customised to the wearer’s lineage, several social media users using the same filter exacerbated the “huge disrespect” brought on by the “highly offensive” gadgets, one expert claimed.

(with inputs from agencies)

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