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Facebook or Fairbook?

An online application that allows users to look ‘fairer’ gets panned for being racist.

entertainment Updated: Jul 18, 2010 01:30 IST

Racist, ridiculous and hypocritical ... A Facebook application — an advertising gimmick to promote skincare brand Vaseline’s new fairness product for men — has been panned by the international media, for being ‘racist’. An HT City poll of 100 men found that for most Delhiites too, the concept of such an application is “ridiculous.”

FacebookWorldwide Criticism

The international media has minced no words in criticising the application. "This is a rather icky reminder of the pigment-o-crasy that exists in many countries," wrote a columnist with The Atlantic, US. The Guardian, UK points out, that the parent company of this brand also has other brands, which promote self-esteem. Calling this a hypocritical divide, the paper calls on people to "Vote with your tweets, start blogging, start boycotting and start asking them to stop this campaign for whiter beauty. Only then might marketing people start listening."

The Wall Street Journal points out, "The application is sure to reignite the debate even if it purports only to lighten your skin in photographs."

No takers for Fairbook

Of our 100 respondents, 70 per cent said they would "never" use the application, 25 per cent said they would "try it out for fun" and 5 per cent said they "weren’t sure." Also, 97 per cent said they would never use fairness creams, even though figures quoted by market research group Nielson, the ‘fariness’ market in India is worth $500 million a year, with sales of products for men up by 25 per cent since last year. Ad professional, Shreya Banerjee explains the contradiction, saying, "A lot of men use these products, but no one wants to own up because it’s not considered manly!"

The application, however, has no takers — virtual or real. Its online rating is ‘Poor’, with close to 700 Facebook users rating it one on a scale of five.

"I thought men were supposed to be tall, dark, and handsome," says Rohan Sahni, 25. "I would never photoshop or modify my display picture. I am what I am, and it is fake to do something like that," says Abhinav Sharma. "Transform your face by whitening it? Ahh, racism," says Erica Naylor on Facebook. "Imagine the horror and uproar if this racist application would have published by a western country," wrote Ravikiran Marella.