The Constructors of the Indian Constitution identified a systemic need to protect the people who are oppressed or could be oppressed in the newly independent society and therefore provide them with certain rights which cannot be taken away or create policies that provide an affirmative action. It would be become the responsibility of the state and the government to make sure these are upheld and this affirmative action for these oppressed groups is beneficial. This ideology was behind provisions and rights provided to certain religious minorities and women in the constitution of India. However, one cannot ignore the translation of this oppression in the 21st century and how it causes, if not more, a similar level of damage to society.

The latest addition to these attempts of oppression in modern times is the ‘Bulli Bai’ app and ‘Sulli Deals’ app. These applications, while having different names, allowed and enabled the same acts to transpire on their platform. These acts included the circulation of pictures of Muslim Women who were activists, journalists, working professionals and even students, for ‘auctioning’ them. The oppressive ideology and hatred spewed through this enraged everyone on social media and forced the police authorities to take action. This led to the arrest of several individuals from around the nation, who were all 18-21 years of age. The alleged creator of this application, Niraj Bishnoi, who was arrested by the police from his hometown in Assam, tried extensively to cover his digital footprint and protect his identity. However, a deeper dive into his alleged actions and what is available in the public domain make it clear that his acts were not of a ‘professional cybercriminal’. The individual allegedly used ‘ProtonVPN’ which is a free VPN service, to hide his IP address and hence his alleged involvement and identity. However, after analysing the Platform’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, it becomes abundantly clear that this VPN does in fact engage and Assist the Law Enforcement Agencies on a valid legal request and thereby provide with the personal or even sensitive personal information of the Individual request by the said Law Enforcement. The platform in their Terms of Service also highlights that using the platform for “Harassing, abusing, insulting, harming, defaming, slandering, disparaging, intimidating, or discriminating based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, race, age, national origin, or disability” is not allowed. This clearly differentiates the service provided by this VPN from the VPNs that neither engage with the Law Enforcement and nor hold any information, hence don’t moderate the content either. It is, however, important to note that the alleged creator of the ‘Sulli Deals’ app has now been arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police after questioning the alleged creator of ‘Bulli bai’.

People have also called out the involvement of Github in this incident as the ‘Bulli Bai’ app is said to be completely based or rather copied from the ‘Sulli Deals’ app, with certain tweaks in graphics and names, and was hosted on Github. This meant that the entire codebase of ‘Sulli Deals’ was available for anyone to use. Several people have pointed out that this multiplicity of the incident is a point of serious concern as it showcases the lack of Content moderation attempts by the platform. However, one should know that most of the information that is available on this platform is in Java or other programming languages and millions of projects are hosted there. To ascertain whether a project or program violates the content policy or not one has to go through the entire project and requires a significant level of skill set and manpower. On the other hand, it can also be argued that Social Media platforms also spend a lot of money in developing tools based on AI and Machine Learning to identify the violative content on their platforms which understand the context and semantics of that video, audio, image or any other content and a large organisation like Github can also invest in technologies to implement a certain level of moderation to prevent such incidents.

However, The responsibility of Hosting platforms or intermediaries still doesn’t absolve the responsibility of the society towards the people who are actually responsible or behind such applications. We as a society need to reconsider our methods of upbringing, parenting, teaching and communication as these people who are allegedly behind these apps are very young and have just turned adults. Their social media activity, online presence and these specific actions, all indicate a clear lack of empathy towards other people and showcase that their hearts and minds are filled with spite and hatred and therefore, use their medium of expression, the internet, to express this hatred. What we need is a fundamental change in the schooling and parenting of everyone, to essentially include Empathy and its expression through social media and methods to stay away from toxic power provided to an individual through the anonymity of the Internet. One can use the deterrence and precedence established by this incident to understand these concepts and make sure the Internet is a safer place for everyone.

Author – Mr. Hrishikesh Bedi, Consultant, CyberPeace Foundation

Leave a Reply

About Cyber Peace Corps

Address: B-55 MIG, Ranchi Jharkhand, India
Phone: (+91) 82350 58865
Email[email protected]