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Women-only networking app Giggle under fire for transphobia

App uses AI to verify if women are cis-presenting or not.


Brianna Holt


Posted on Sep 11, 2020

Networking online has never been easier. With social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok growing exponentially in popularity—adult usage of social media in the U.S. increased from 5% in 2005 to 79% in 2019—the six degrees of separation theory holds more certainty. Even dating apps are pivoting to networking features that connect users seeking business opportunities and platonic relationships, one being Giggle.

At a first glance, Giggle appears to be every woman’s dream; no men are allowed on the app, applicants are verified for approval, and the company’s messaging stresses that it’s “designed to give girls choice, control and connection.” But the not-so-obvious requirement for landing membership on the platform is having cis-gender facial features—which can vary among women of different ethnic backgrounds and exclude prospective trans applicants.

Signing up involves uploading a selfie for verification. The company then uses bio-metric gender verification software to authenticate the applicant as a woman. This is where men—and trans women—might fall short of being approved. “Due to the gender-verification software that giggle uses, trans-girls will experience trouble with being verified,” Giggle previously stated on its website, according to the Verge.

Other critics drew attention to the app’s security breaches. Listed in the privacy policy, Giggle has the right to collect personal information, including peoples’ location, browsing data, and stored images. Additionally, sensitive information like details about someone’s sex life, health, and criminal background is fair game for third-party websites. 

Security breaches combined with transphobic measures for acceptance on the app has led to persistent negative ratings, online backlash, and even death threats for the app and its founder. In a Medium article, Sall Grover addressed how she’s been handling the scrutiny she’s faced as the creator of Giggle. The post, titled “I Guess I’m a Terf Then,” explains everything from the founder’s reasoning behind Giggle to why she doesn’t view herself as transphobic and how her crucifixion is similar to that of J.K. Rowling’s, but a Twitter thread by user @adulthumanfem10 contradicts the self-assessment.

Despite rampant backlash on Twitter, Grover has stated that she does not have plans to create a “trans women only expansion of the app.” In public conversations with social media users, the Australian business owner has voiced that she does not “have a problem with trans women while also advocating for biological sex and single sex spaces,” but that “Giggle the app is female only.”

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*First Published: Sep 11, 2020, 12:45 pm CDT