On one hand, it's a great idea
February 15, 2020 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Giggle is a "girls only social network" for Android and IOS. It uses "bio-metric gender verification software" to make sure the site is free of men. (Not boys. The site is "for girls" and "not for men.") Since it recognizes "gender" by bone structure, it admits it may have some problems identifying trans girls. But don't worry! "If you are at all concerned with the possibility of being misgendered, you are welcome to contact giggle HQ for manual onboarding."

Giggle insists that their software is Real Science:
This involves taking a selfie and the gender recognition software produces a result. This process is closely monitored by real girls. Bio-Science, not pseudo-science like phrenology, is behind this process. It determines both male and female genders and does not discriminate by race or age. Gender Identity is a separate issue.
Nowhere do they admit that they're trying to identify sex, not gender. Nonbinary people and trans men/boys are not mentioned at all. Their TOS and FAQ also don't mention the existence of adult women - this is a platform for GIRLS.

The terms of use and privacy policies have so many red flags, including the right to distribute images to their "business partners" and consent to a whole swarm of data collection. They specifically don't allow competitors to use their site; it's unclear if the same TOS applies to the app, or if there's a separate set of terms for that.

The app is Australian, and they specifically decline to comply with the laws of any other country, including intellectual property laws. Presumably, they're also claiming exemptions from age-based data collection laws and laws that don't allow restricting access by gender without a better reason than "girls deserve their special online space."

IOS App Store listingPress ReleaseLogitheque listing
posted by ErisLordFreedom (60 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
predatorplayground.net
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:23 AM on February 15 [18 favorites]


This will end well....
posted by Pendragon at 10:33 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]


this is fine
posted by supermedusa at 10:33 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]


It's bad. Data collection central, and they have the right to use any images posted to the site.

https://www.criticalhit.net/technology/ new-women-only-social-media-app -to-use-ai-to-determine-gender/
posted by subdee at 10:39 AM on February 15 [5 favorites]


It's just such an epic clusterfuck of bad ideas that you want to believe it's a stunt to prove a point. But having seen these folks interacting on Twitter with people who really, really want to help them understand what the issue is here, I don't think it's a stunt, I think they really think this is a good idea.

Luckily for any men who want to join, all you have to do is grow your hair long or wear a wig, because that is the state of the art of gender classification in images: very, very easily fooled by hair.
posted by potrzebie at 10:42 AM on February 15 [31 favorites]


Why is it that nearly all "for girls only!" social things online are invariably a terrible idea? Could it be that it reifies socially constructed notions of gender? Perhaps most of these projects are nakedly obvious attempts to corner "a market" without the realization that there exists a broad spectrum of women and girls, who are not all alike and not all looking for the same things? Or maybe it's the number of these projects that are actually thought up by men and not women in the first place?
posted by subdee at 10:42 AM on February 15 [16 favorites]


@potrzebie Or, you could just use a woman's selfie to join, it's not like the algorithm will know it's not you.
posted by subdee at 10:43 AM on February 15 [16 favorites]


Why is it that nearly all "for girls only!" social things online are invariably a terrible idea?

Same reason that virtually any large-at-start social network is a terrible idea: good social networks grow organically from small kernels of people who know and trust each other, and they evolve self-policing methods. Trying to start one at scale is putting up a sign saying “COME FUCK WITH US” before any of that trust and policing can evolve.
posted by Etrigan at 10:47 AM on February 15 [22 favorites]


It wouldn't surprise me if the founders end up being outed as TERFs at some point. The biotruths aspect of the entire thing just reeks.

They seem to have softened the algorithm after the controversy and it apparently went from transphobic to "why even bother"
posted by simmering octagon at 10:49 AM on February 15 [27 favorites]


Sounds like the beginnings of Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age and the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer: a Propædeutic Enchiridion.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:16 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]


Good social networks grow organically, just like other types of fungus.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 11:36 AM on February 15 [15 favorites]


The app is Australian, and they specifically decline to comply with the laws of any other country

Perhaps they should have called it a “sheilas-only social network” then.
posted by acb at 11:54 AM on February 15 [9 favorites]


“Girls” and no “men,” got it. I kind of hope this network is populated exclusively by the kind of middle-aged women who call themselves “girls” and say things like “I made a boo-boo” and “I have to go potty” and write their work emails in 16-point Kristin ITC.

Signed, a middle-aged woman
posted by armeowda at 12:28 PM on February 15 [37 favorites]


Why is it that nearly all "for girls only!" social things online are invariably a terrible idea?

Because online nobody knows you're a dog.

It's all computers, the computers and their software are all made by people, so there is no immutable natural state to detect, anywhere. AFAIK the only way to know you're communicating with a human is to get either a house address or bank account number, and proving anything genetic is going to be even more invasive.

The internet is composed almost entirely of claims. Most of the remainder, what is provable in public, is the result of Intellectual Property laws. In other words: what's real on the internet? Trademarks and copyrights and little else.
posted by rhizome at 12:39 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


I immediately thought “oh TERFs,” and wondered who would think it was a good idea to ID themselves as a trans girl to a corporation who will use that information for... something.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:31 PM on February 15 [12 favorites]


the gender recognition software produces a result. This process is closely monitored by real girls
Translation: the software's results are tossed in the garbage and the decision is outsourced to whichever company will do it the cheapest?
posted by RobotHero at 1:50 PM on February 15 [8 favorites]


I wonder if Goop is invested in this.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:53 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


Molly Woodstock of the Gender Reveal podcast (trying to "get a little bit closer to understanding what the heck gender is") has a hysterical take on this in the latest episode (in This Week on Gender which is in the first minutes of the podcast - though the whole episode is great as are all the previous episodes).
posted by kokaku at 1:56 PM on February 15 [5 favorites]


It's a small thing, but on their website they seem to persistently hyphenate "trans-girls".

The use of the term transgirls or transwomen (one word) as opposed to "trans girls" or "trans women" (two words) is a TERF dogwhistle. It's designed to imply that trans women exist but are a separate thing to "proper" women.
posted by winterhill at 1:58 PM on February 15 [32 favorites]


Calling it Giggle seems kind of patronizing/old-fashioned.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 2:24 PM on February 15 [19 favorites]


This involves taking a selfie and the gender recognition software produces a result. This process is closely monitored by real girls. Bio-Science, not pseudo-science like phrenology, is behind this process.

When I read something like this I immediately assume it has to be satire, like a... well, like a normal person making fun of a flat-earther.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:31 PM on February 15 [11 favorites]


Calling it Giggle seems kind of patronizing/old-fashioned.

As does calling its users (who implicitly include adult women) girls. You know, girls get together to giggle. Talk about your male gaze. My first reaction was that it was meant to be surreal or satirical, but apparently not.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:36 PM on February 15 [10 favorites]


I have a hard time even thinking about the trans women angle because that requires imagining they really can categorize skull shapes with a cell phone app.
posted by RobotHero at 2:37 PM on February 15


Why is it that nearly all "for girls only!" social things online are invariably a terrible idea?

Partially because it's solving the problem with the wrong people. Girls and women aren't the reason online social spaces are terrible for women and girls. Not that girls and women don't deserve to have their own spaces but

good social networks grow organically from small kernels of people who know and trust each other, and they evolve self-policing methods.

Women and girls don't tend to ruin those spaces nearly as quickly as men and boys. Also

maybe it's the number of these projects that are actually thought up by men and not women in the first place?

100%. That's why it's "solving" the problem with the wrong people.
posted by Uncle at 2:48 PM on February 15 [12 favorites]


I have a hard time even thinking about the trans women angle because that requires imagining they really can categorize skull shapes with a cell phone app.

Surely this must be satire. It has AI-powered phrenology, a whiff of TERFism, and a social-media angle that is about on a par with Yo. Just add blockchain and you'll have a full bingo card.
posted by acb at 3:18 PM on February 15 [8 favorites]


It looks like they've now gotten @giggle-girl.com emails, but as of a few days ago when I first stumbled across this, all of the listed contact emails on their site went to @cldstylehouse.com (and, in fact, one of them still does).

If you follow along to look at CLD Style House, they're a PR firm whose previous works appear to appeal to many of the very same mindsets Giggle is trying to push against.

I still can't strongly shake the feeling that this is all some kind of elaborate ruse or joke or satire, but all of the official materials don't seem at all tongue-in-cheek, and I can't figure out what the joke actually is or who's doing it.
posted by zekesonxx at 3:20 PM on February 15 [13 favorites]


This process is closely monitored by real girls.

Wow, real girls, just like me! That's bio-science!! Sign me up!
posted by Dysk at 3:32 PM on February 15 [20 favorites]


Takes one to know one!
posted by rhizome at 3:33 PM on February 15


Careful now, real girls are closely monitoring this thread.
posted by Dumsnill at 3:34 PM on February 15 [15 favorites]


So, y'know that thing where you repeat a word so many times that it starts to lose its meaning in your brain and begins to not even look like a word anymore?

Yeah, that's what happened to the word "girls" while reading that damn press release.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:46 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


@soundguy99, also the word "giggle" which is almost not a real word to begin with.
posted by subdee at 4:01 PM on February 15 [6 favorites]


So, do the girls monitoring things work as part of the giggle economy? Because they should sharpen their pitchforks for the revolution....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:06 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


this is also abelist. Assuming that people's skulls developed in a particular way ignores craniopagus conjoined twins, as well as a number of other developmental and genetic issues, not to mention the possibility of injury changing the shape of the face/skull.

Even if your skull is the right shape, machine learning is fragile and may fail with data that isn't reflected in it's training data. It could easily fail on people using adaptive or assistive technologies, like mouth sticks or sip and puff switches.
posted by gryftir at 5:05 PM on February 15 [7 favorites]


It would give really weird results for Marlon Brando in The Godfather.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:10 PM on February 15


All the photos put into this app will end up on an unprotected S3 bucket, if history is a guide.
posted by BungaDunga at 5:45 PM on February 15 [9 favorites]


is there a social network for mean girls?

asking for a friend
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:02 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Horribly, "giggle" closely resembles my actual surname, to the point that spellcheckers usually helpfully correct that name to "giggle". So now that this thing is apparently taking off, not only is "giggle" no longer a word but also now every time I see someone bringing this up I have to double check because the name of the damn company trips my recognition of my own name.

I realize that I am probably the only person with this specific problem, but it's a quiet grievance I've been cherishing this week as folks rightly point out what an awful concept this is all over my Twitter feed.
posted by sciatrix at 6:54 PM on February 15 [8 favorites]


My reflexive reaction is: what upcoming horror movie or TV show is this an ARG for?
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:19 PM on February 15 [13 favorites]


this is also abelist. Assuming that people's skulls developed in a particular way ignores...

Anyone who can't be recognized by the AI is going to be told, "just contact our support team and they'll get you set up!"
...only right now, they've toned down the gender restriction on the AI, and it is recognizing both men and cats as valid. (Some men. Not others. Not sure what the difference is, since one of the guys who was validated has a beard.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:34 PM on February 15 [3 favorites]


it is recognizing both men and cats as valid.

Are they going to have it give relationship advice?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:37 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


I would join a cat-only social network.
posted by jb at 8:32 PM on February 15 [15 favorites]


So, y'know that thing where you repeat a word so many times that it starts to lose its meaning in your brain and begins to not even look like a word anymore?

Semantic satiation.

I would join a cat-only social network.

If my cats are any indication, it would be pretty boring because all they ever really do is butt type stuff like hhghjhfcdbjjkgxfxdfchvb. Hb bvgvg g.
posted by holborne at 8:45 PM on February 15 [8 favorites]


How much data are they going to gather? Gigglebytes!
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:08 PM on February 15 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised they don't require a vulva selfie.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:19 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


SCP-4319 BREACH DETECTED
posted by BiggerJ at 1:46 AM on February 16 [7 favorites]


Our local radio station continually advertises a club night at a terrible small-town nightclub featuring "exotic male dancers!" and "75p drinks all night!" called Giggle for the Girls. I can't help thinking of that naff ad when I see the name of this website.
posted by winterhill at 4:27 AM on February 16


I would join a cat-only social network.

75% of it would be glaring, growling, and hissing. So, somewhat better than Twitter.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:40 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


These people are going to start a boys-only social network next, and call it uuuuhhh-huh-huh-huh-huh-uuuuhhh-huh-huh-huh-huh-m-heh-heh-heh-heh-yeah-yeah-m-heh-heh-heh-heh-yeah-yeah.com
posted by Cardinal Fang at 10:20 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]


Text box item sample content, so says their FAQ page at the bottom.
posted by emelenjr at 10:35 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


you are welcome to contact giggle HQ for manual onboarding.

Uhm, really? Are you really going to be like that so soon, 2020?

If I went back about 25 years and spoke that sentence to someone I would bet good money that either seriously offend someone and/or get slapped.

It's somehow even weirder and darker with the rest of the proceeding sentence and goes from what sounds like a casual invitation for an anonymous groping to a not so casual order or command for a much more clinical and threatening anonymous groping.

Oh for fuck's sake "giggle HQ" sounds like a rejected Austin Powers euphemism for one of his many erogenous zones, this one likely somewhere near his bum. Ugh, or toes.
posted by loquacious at 11:35 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


OH SHIT RUN- IT'S THE REAL GIRLS!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:47 PM on February 16


Medium post about AI detection of gender, and the issues around that.

(In the interests of transparency, I know the author).
posted by tinkletown at 4:30 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I've also realized the "contact giggle HQ for manual onboarding" means the site/app expects to be small with slow growth. They don't expect a few dozen manual onboards per day. They probably don't expect a few dozen per week, or even month - they're not expecting to deal with more than one or two per week.

And they really aren't ready to deal with a constant string of complaints at giggle HQ and manual onboarding requests in the middle of that.

Do they believe that "an app for girls" is not going to run up against Australia's anti-discrimination laws? Australia forbids discrimination by sex, intersex status, or gender identity - and I'd think that even if "social app for girls" is allowed, "separate onboard process for non-cis girls" sounds like discrimination.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:05 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


SCP-4319 BREACH DETECTED

Obviously it must have been contained already, because otherwise we'd be seeing its effects on the blue the pink! tee hee
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:27 AM on February 17 [1 favorite]


So....this is an Australian enterprise that attempts to disclaim any other jurisdiction in their TOS.

Without commenting on the effectiveness of that term, I would note the following is Australian law regarding sex discrimination:

22 Goods, services and facilities

(1) It is unlawful for a person who, whether for payment or not, provides goods or services, or makes facilities available, to discriminate against another person on the ground of the other person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, or breastfeeding:

(a) by refusing to provide the other person with those goods or services or to make those facilities available to the other person;

(b) in the terms or conditions on which the first‑mentioned person provides the other person with those goods or services or makes those facilities available to the other person; or

(c) in the manner in which the first‑mentioned person provides the other person with those goods or services or makes those facilities available to the other person.

The national statute does permit "clubs" to restrict membership to those of a "different sex" than the applicant. But I see nothing on their website that attempts to call it a "club" in distinction from a "service;" and I don't think they'd qualify because they don't propose to make their money from paid membership, and they don't have a physical premises at which they sell or serve booze (how Aussie is that?!?):

club means an association (whether incorporated or unincorporated) of not less than 30 persons associated together for social, literary, cultural, political, sporting, athletic or other lawful purposes that:
(a) provides and maintains its facilities, in whole or in part, from the funds of the association; and
(b) sells or supplies liquor for consumption on its premises.


I feel like this would be pretty hard to miss if you were seriously trying to make this work as a business, so I'm leaning towards the hypothesis that this is really just an email address harvesting campaign.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:13 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


There's an interview with the founder ("Sall Grover") from last year on "The Daily Pretty" , that has some interesting tidbits:

"Giggle is the collective noun for a group of girls and the platform is that in app form. It is a place where girls can go to form private groups of 2-6 girls for work, roommates, travel, mentoring and networking, emotional support and much, much more. There is no crazy personal information required to use Giggle. It is free to use – there are a few premium upgrades if you need them. Giggle exists for every girl, no matter what her age. Giggle also doesn’t take any fees – if you make money from freelance work, every cent of it is yours to keep.

So, it seems like Giggle is supposed to be a cutesy deformation of "gaggle," the collective noun for geese, and one arm of the business model (if there really is one) will be charging people to promote their presence on the site.

Giggle gift is a daily offer to support a girl owned business and a girl orientated charity, while giving yourself a little gift. Whether it’s a pair of earrings or some fun beauty products, you get something while 15% of the sale price goes to help girls who need it all around the world.


How is it going to do that, exactly? And what are the chances that "Partner With Us" means "paid product placement" in the Giggle Gift program? That is, if this thing actually ever gets off the ground.

One also wonders if Hello Giggles ("a positive online community for women [although men are always welcome!]") has taken notice of this.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:35 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


OK, actually it would appear to be even worse than that. From the App Store listing:


giggle’s algorithm makes sure that girls liking each other are shown each other so that your giggle can be created quickly and smoothly!

Connect & conversation: your giggles exist on your giggle match screen. Now you get to enjoy private and secure conversations. What you do next is, as always, your choice!


giggle aims to ensure girls have choice, consent, control & connection in their lives.


Giggle Invisible for 1 month
$5.99
Giggle Invisible for 3 months
$15.99
Giggle Invisible for 12 months
$31.99

posted by snuffleupagus at 2:53 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


Giggle is not the collective noun for a group of girls. Bevy is. There've been a few attempts to use "giggle" as a collective noun for girls, but it's almost always pejorative, and it's very, very rare, even with how much "bevy" has fallen out of use.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:40 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Also, the people they are signing up are by definition not girls, but women.

Janet: "not a girl"
posted by hydropsyche at 10:11 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


This seems like something out of the in universe advertising found in Bitch Planet.
posted by kaiseki at 12:38 PM on February 19 [1 favorite]


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