HER founder denounces ‘opportunistic’ new trans-exclusionary lesbian dating app

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The chief executive and founder of HER has expressed disappointment at a new lesbian dating app which purports to use facial recognition technology to exclude trans users.

Robyn Exton, who launched dating and community app HER in 2015 – it boasts more than 13 million members worldwide – said she felt a “real sadness” that the new app is being promoted during Pride month.

“This is a month where we’re supposed to talk about rights, equality and equal access for our whole community and this is the time when you choose to build a platform that you intentionally discriminate against part of our community,” Exton said.

“It’s mainly disappointing during Pride to publish it.”

Exton went on to say that she feels the creation of the L’App is “largely opportunistic”, in response to “an interest that people have” because of online discourse around trans issues.

HER has more than 13 million members across the globe. (HER)

Earlier this week, gender-critical campaigner Jenny Watson spoke to The Mail on Sunday about her new platform, which will use facial recognition technology to scan a prospective user’s face on their smartphone to detect if someone is transgender or not – supposedly with 99 per cent accuracy.

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Watson, who previous launched a female-only private members club, told the newspaper that there are “no female-only dating apps at the moment” and “lesbians need an app they can use without being messaged by trans-identifying males”.

She says L’App’s technology relies on analysing facial features such as bone structure and the positioning of a person’s eyes, eyebrows and nose, and is able to detect if someone is holding up an image of a woman to the camera by noting physical movements, blinking and heat emissions.

Exton expressed concerns about the technology, particularly whether it has been tested against enough faces of different races and ethnicities.

“They’re only interested in AFAB [assigned female at birth] people being on their platform. Well, are you going to welcome trans men into your platform? Because it seems that’s what you’re wanting to say by this technology,” Exton said.

“From my perspective, gender is not something you’re going to recognise from anyone’s face.

Robyn Exton
Robyn Exton has questioned the new app’s technology. (Mariya Stangl)

“If you are looking to identify AFAB people from technology, you may have tested it against a Euro, white face – which is what a lot of AI is derived of – but if you are looking at different ethnicities from different countries, I do not believe you will be able to identify this.”

HER, which has been supportive of its trans users since it launched, faced vitriol last year for welcoming transgender and non-binary people.

The pile-on resulted in HER’s X/Twitter account being temporarily suspended on Lesbian Visibility Day, after people reported it en masse.

Gender-critical male activists even took to creating their own accounts on HER in a bid to “catch out” trans women using it to find love and connection – only to end up exposing one another instead.

The company, however, did not back down and reaffirmed its commitment to the community by sending a push notification to the app’s millions of users, telling transphobes to delete it from their phones.  

HER app mock up
HER is a supporter of the trans community. (HER)

“There’s a reason we have Pride every year. Yes, it is a celebration because we deal with this s**t every day of our lives. But, it is also about remembering the lack of rights and access that most of our community is still dealing with,” Exton said told PinkNews.

“In a lot of Western markets, that is by and large trans people. For the wider community in other countries of the world, there is a huge job ahead to still gain equal rights and access. So, to see discrimination coming from within the community is such a step back.”

People need to “pick their battles” and support the whole community during Pride, she added.

Research by PinkNews previously found most of the big dating apps, such as Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge and Grindr, are trans inclusive and have zero-tolerance policies when it comes to transphobia on their platforms.

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