Appreciation or appropriation: Social media giant removes Tā Moko filters

By Stefan Dimitrof

Snapchat filters that depict digitised Māori Moko and Mataora on users’ faces have been removed from the social media app after a backlash from people saying they disrespect the tapu tattoos.

Snapchat’s terms of service state that it prohibits content that demeans, defames or promotes discrimination.

Dr Karaitiana Taiuru, a mātauranga Māori and kaupapa Māori researcher with expertise in digital data sovereignty and Māori intellectual property said he had seen a number of the filters being used in social media.

“It’s increasingly becoming more popular where Māori imagery is used.”

“It's very easy to take someone’s real-life moko and turn it into a filter and, once that happens, it’s very hard to take back.”

It isn’t illegal to use moko or mataora in the way that Snapchat and other social media have created filters from these cultural representations of Māori taonga.

Taiuru said that the government needed to understand there was digital misappropriation going on and suggested there needed to be a restructuring of the New Zealand web-based online agencies and the creation of a Māori authority to protect Māori from cultural appropriation.