I once asked a very young person (OK, a 20 year old) to explain the allure of Snapchat filters to me. "They're fun!" she said, as if this were some kind of self-evident fact. While I struggle to understand the joy implicit in silly selfies, some in India are finding other uses for the social media company's ubiquitous feature: sexual abuse survivors are now using the filters to conceal their identity when speaking out against their victimizers.
The idea was perhaps first implemented by Yusuf Omar, mobile editor of the Hindustan Times, who suggested that his interview subjects use Snapchat to obscure their features. The interviews were being conducted as part of The Climb Against Sexual Abuse, which, according to Jezebel, "is an organization that works to break the silence around sexual abuse and plans actual hikes with survivors." The filters allow victims to speak openly and without fear of repercussions, retaliation, or attracting social stigma.
Commenting on the ways that the filters freed people, Omar had this to say:
"Recording with a mask gave them the sense of legitimacy and security that I wasn’t going to be able to show their face, as opposed to trusting a journalist saying ‘Yes, we will blur you afterwards,’ so they felt empowered and in control of the narrative.
Using the inside camera, they felt like they were looking in a mirror...
They weren’t telling their story to me or a camera, they were just looking at themselves in a phone and recalling their experiences – and there was something so personal and sincere about that."
Here's the Hindustan Times video in which you can see the tech at work: