An app marketed towards "females" has faced a barrage of online criticism for excluding transgender women with its use of artificial intelligence.
Giggle, which first launched in early 2020, according to The Verge, uses facial recognition to determine if new users are male or female.
"The way the app works is when you install it, you have to take a picture of yourself and it uses AI to analyze your face," said Jenny, a 23-year-old trans woman from California. "And if it decides you're a woman, it will let you in. If it decides you're a man, it will reject you. But if it rejects you, you can just submit another picture."
Giggle's founder and CEO, Sall Grover, has brashly pushed back against online criticism, including claims that the app uses technology that has failed to properly identify women of color, while publicly embracing an ideology that's considered harmful to trans people.
"This particular combination of gender categorization and facial recognition and race is something that we absolutely know is a problem," Casey Fiesler, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies technology ethics, told Insider.
The issue, however, has gone beyond the platform's questionable AI practices. Grover, who has embraced being called a "TERF" — trans-exclusionary radical feminist — told Insider that she decided to exclude trans women from the platform once trans activists began using it.
According to Giggle's website, the app sends a new user's selfie to the facial-recognition AI company Kairos, which analyzes the photo.
"Through computer vision and deep learning, they recognise females in videos, photos, and the real world," according to Giggle. If the Kairos AI is 95% certain the person is female, the person is allowed to create an account, Giggle says. Kairos did not return Insider's request for comment.
Grover said in a December tweet in the wake of the controversy that the app would be temporarily removed from the Google app store after the company was targeted with negative reviews by people she described in a tweet as "male" and "trolls."
The app was restored to Google Play in January and has remained available on the App Store. Neither Apple nor Google returned Insider's requests for comment about whether the app violated any policies.