Transgender women slam female-only social networking app Giggle for using facial recognition software that excludes them - but CEO doubles down and insists that it's not a place for 'men claiming to be women'

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Giggle is a female-only networking app created by Sall Grover in early 2020 App's AI allegedly discriminates against trans women and women of colour Grover, from Queensland, said app is for women only and trans women are men

A female-only app has come under fire for discriminating against transgender women with its facial recognition AI. 

Giggle, a social network ‘only for females’, which launched in early 2020, has since been the subject of complaints from transgender women, who told the Verge, that their requests to join have been denied by the app’s facial recognition system, because their features ware not ‘feminine’ enough.

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However, now Giggle’s CEO Sall Grover, who is based in Queensland, has doubled down, claiming that there is no space on the app for ‘men claiming to be women’. 

Grover, who does not believe trans women are female, told Femail: ‘The fact is, women of colour are on Giggle. Giggle is used by women of every race, religion and culture. The quality that Giggle users have in common is they are female.’

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Giggle, a social network that claims to be 'only for females' was slammed after trans women said they have been kept out of the app since it launched in early 2020. Its CEO Sall Grover, pictured, who is based in Queensland, doubled down this week on Twitter

Giggle, a social network that claims to be ‘only for females’ was slammed after trans women said they have been kept out of the app since it launched in early 2020. Its CEO Sall Grover, pictured, who is based in Queensland, doubled down this week on Twitter

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The app uses a facial recognition software that claims to screen out men who want to join Giggle by analysing their facial features

The app uses a facial recognition software that claims to screen out men who want to join Giggle by analysing their facial features 

The AI Giggle uses for face recognition works by analysing the bone structure of its members, meaning that individuals with masculine features could be prevented from creating an account on the app.  

Allegations of transphobia surrounding Giggle first surfaced when the app was created in early 2020. 

However, the story has emerged again after LGBTQ+ publication PinkNews approached Grover for comment for an article about the controversy. 

An unnamed freelance journalist writing for the publication sent a request for comment, asking whether trans women are ‘encouraged to join the Giggle app’ and whether the issue of facial recognition would be ‘fixed.’

Grover replied to the query, saying: ‘Giggle is a social networking app for females. Males are excluded from the user base. There is no other specific demographic that is excluded from the app other than males.

Giggle is a female-only social network which had come under fire due to its AI, which keeps transgender women from creating accounts on the app based on their features

Giggle is a female-only social network which had come under fire due to its AI, which keeps transgender women from creating accounts on the app based on their features 

Sall wrote on Twitter she is not 'obligated' to adhere to gender identity and said 'men are claiming to be women'

Sall wrote on Twitter she is not ‘obligated’ to adhere to gender identity and said ‘men are claiming to be women’ 

The former screenwriter said in an open letter to the media in 2021 that she believes there should be transgender only spaces

The former screenwriter said in an open letter to the media in 2021 that she believes there should be transgender only spaces 

‘No males are encouraged to join Giggle. Giggle is clearly stated as being for females. It would be lovely, however, if male people respected female spaces and left them alone.’ 

An editor for the publication later asked Grover to ‘unequivocally’ confirm whether trans women are accepted on Giggle, to which she replied: ‘Giggle is an app for females, to connect in a female environment.’

And when asked whether she personally believes trans women to be women, she wrote: ‘ I can find no evidence or any female trans women.’

Grover continued: ‘I understand that PinkNews will be writing an article in support of trans women with the belief that they are female, with the specific purpose to condemn Giggle, an app for females.’

She said that she hoped the article would point out that there are plenty of apps created specifically for trans people, which she fully supports, and added: ‘All I ask is for is the same respect for female spaces.’     

When PinkNews published their article on Giggle including Grover’s comments, she wrote on Twitter: ‘I created an app for females, a place where women can connect, support each other & have a voice in a much needed male-free environment. 

‘Yet all the media cares about in relation to it is males. in case anyone was wondering whether or not misogyny is alive & f****** well.’

In another tweet Grover shared around the same time, she wrote: ‘The *only* reason anyone is struggling to answer “what is a woman?” is because men are claiming to be women.

Grover shared an exchange she had with a freelance journalist writing for the LGBTQ+ publication PinkNews, where she was asked about the allegations trans women cannot join Giggle
She said in her reply 'male people' should respect female spaces

Grover shared an exchange she had with a freelance journalist writing for the LGBTQ+ publication PinkNews, where she was asked about the allegations trans women cannot join Giggle. She said in her reply ‘male people’ should respect female spaces 

‘That’s all. Take that away & “what is a woman?” remains as clear as it has always been. Nothing has changed. We’re still just adult human females. Evolution hasn’t tricked us,’ she added. 

Speaking to Femail, Grover said: There is no other specific demographic that is excluded from Giggle other than males.

‘PinkNews chose to run a headline saying that Giggle excludes “trans women”, therefore acknowledging that trans women are male. 

‘Pink News is an LGBTQ+ publication catering to a specific demographic. Giggle is an app that caters for a specific demographic. But it seems that there are people who have a problem when the demographic being catered for is, exclusively, female,’ she added. 

She also claimed PinkNews did not ask her to comment on allegations that the Giggle’s facial recognition software was excluding women of colour. 

She claimed the publication was trying to ‘discredit’ her app, because it is a social network for females. 

‘This only hurts women of colour. I find this to be unforgivable. The fact is, women of color are on Giggle. 

‘Giggle is used by women of every race, religion and culture, The only quality that Giggle users have in common is they are female’ she said. 

She claimed the people bringing forward accusation of discrimination of women of colour are ‘teenage white boys’.

She did not specify whether she was using the term ‘teenage white boys’ to describe teenage transgender women.   

‘Giggle doesn’t use security to stop women from joining the app. Giggle has security because males try to come into what they know is a female space,’ she said, again referring to trans women as male. 

‘Grindr – an app for the LGBTQ+ community – does not require security. Straight women like myself who are not part of Grindr’s demographic and therefore not welcome on the app simply leave it alone and move on with our lives. Imagine if males were like that towards Giggle?’

Grover also claimed that female trans people are using Giggle. However, she applies the term to individuals who were born female and who are in the process of transitioning to male, or who are questioning their identity. 

‘I find it to be the epitome of sexism that publications such as PinkNews will accuse a company of “transphobia” while completely forgetting that there are trans people we cater for: Female trans people. 

‘Within the app, in Giggle Support, there is a place for users to connect privately and safely to talk about gender identity if they want to,’ she said. 

‘Women are entitled to have a place to connect and chat online away from the male gaze. While there is all this drama on the outside, once inside a female only space it is very relaxing, welcoming and fun.  

‘I will never apologise for defending women and female spaces.’  

It is not the first time Giggle and Grover have made headlines for their view on gender. 

In an open letter to the media penned in January 2021, Grover said she wanted to create Giggle as a strong support network for women after she was sexually assaulted and nearly raped while working as a screenwriter in Hollywood. 

She added she wanted trans women to be a part of the app when Giggle was in the early stages of its development.  

After PinkNews contacted her, Grover shared their email and said 'misogyny is alive & f****** well'

After PinkNews contacted her, Grover shared their email and said ‘misogyny is alive & f****** well’

In another email which she shared on Twitter, Grover said she can find 'no evidence of any female trans women'

In another email which she shared on Twitter, Grover said she can find ‘no evidence of any female trans women’

‘I made sure we created a secondary onboarding for trans women, in the event they were afraid of being misgendered. I wanted trans women to feel welcome,’ she wrote. 

However, she said she changed her mind following the app’s initial testing phase, after trans people and trans allies discovered Giggle and claimed its exclusion of trans women was transphobic. 

She added she did some research on the term TERF – Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist – as well as researching both the trans and the radical feminist communities.  

The CEO added she does not ‘hate’ trans women even though she won’t make space for them on her app.  

The Giggle app offers to connect women in a female only space where men are not included and Grover, its creator, does not believe trans women are real women

The Giggle app offers to connect women in a female only space where men are not included and Grover, its creator, does not believe trans women are real women 

Trans people and trans allies criticised Giggle when it first launched in 2020 for using AI facial recognition, with some saying it'd keep trans women at bay if they did not look feminine enough

Trans people and trans allies criticised Giggle when it first launched in 2020 for using AI facial recognition, with some saying it’d keep trans women at bay if they did not look feminine enough 

‘Trans women and trans men both need protection from the demographic of people who do the actual harm — men,’ she wrote in the open letter.  

Giggle uses facial recognition system from AI company Kairos, which was found to misgender women of colour in a 2019 report by MIT’s media lab. 

The research found that Kairos’ facial recognition software misgendered dark-skinned women 22.5 percent of the time, which means these women would not be able to create an account on the app. 

However, Melissa Doval, the chief executive of Kairos, told the New York Times at the time the research was made public that the company had updated its algorithm  since the study was conducted. 

 

 

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