In today’s day and age, the internet and related technology have allowed people to take everything into their hands. If used wisely, this can do good for society, but if misused, the same power can cause havoc. These days almost anyone can make any kind of app and launch it to the public. Sometimes, this ability is misused so disturbingly that it leaves no room for humanity.
Something like this happened on new year’s day when 100s of Muslim women in India found their images and derogatory content about them on an online app named “Bulli Bai”. These women belonged to fields like journalists, social workers, and other prominent occupations.
The app was created on Github and offered an online auction for Muslim Women. The name of the app is derived from a phrase called “Bulli Bai” which is a derogatory term used for Muslim Women. Anyone who opened the app saw images of women (mostly edited) with the tag line saying- “Your Bulli Bai of the day”.
The app is a clear example of how people have started taking everyone’s lives into their hands by misusing technology. The app is a mere harassment tool for Muslim women, an online platform for trolling Muslim Women. What is surprising is that this is not the 1st app in India that has violated the dignity of Muslim Women. This is the 2nd app within a period of 6 months as the 1st one called “Sulli Deals” surfaced in July last year. Sulli Deals was also hosted on Github.
Sulli Deals also featured photos of 100s of Muslim Women and offered them for auction. Users opening the app saw images with the tagline- “Your Sulli Deal of the Day”. The app was taken down by Github but no arrests were ever made in the Sulli Deals case. Taking down the app, Github said, “We suspended user accounts following the investigation of reports of such activity, all of which violate our policies.”
Public Reaction towards Bulli Bai App
Soon after Bulli Bai App came into notice, many women on Twitter were outraged and claimed that this is happening the 2nd time because the police did not do anything in the Sulli Deals case. They claimed the app is a part of the daily harassment they faced on social media in an increasingly polarised environment under the right-wing Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi Government.
Ismat Ara, a journalist on whose complaint, Delhi Police filed an initial charge sheet told The Independent, “This is not the first time that this has happened repeatedly with vocal Muslim women who highlight issues that people don’t want to talk about.”
After the issue trended on Twitter for straight 24 hours, India’s federal information and technology minister Ashwin Vaishnaw said a probe had started a GitHub had been requested to block the users involved. The GOI also faced a backlash from the opposition parties who said police and government inaction had only encouraged the targeting of Muslim women online.
What’s the progress in the Bulli Bai Case?
While the Delhi Police has been receiving criticism for not doing anything, Mumbai Police has made 3 arrests in the case. The arrested include 21-year-old Vishal Jha (engineering student from Bengaluru), 19-year-old Shweta Singh (Uttarakhand), and 21-year-old Mayank Rawat (student at Delhi University).
On Thursday, Delhi Police finally made an arrest in the case. Niraj Bishnoi from Assam was brought to Delhi and has been named as the mastermind in the case. “Special Cell has arrested the main culprit and creator of the bullibai app on Github. With the arrest, the controversial Bulli Bai app case has been solved completely,” claimed KPS Malhotra, a top Delhi police official of its special cyber cell unit. On 21st June, all these main accused were given bail by the Mumbai Sessions Court on humanitarian grounds.
Interestingly, Bulli Bai accused are all college students who were active on social media and are also said to be a part of the hate groups that target social media users with abuse and harassment.
How is Bulli Bai App found and used?
Bulli Bai cannot actually be called an app as it is not available on Google Play Store or ios store. It is a tech tool that is malignant and hateful and meant to harass women of their dignity. It is not even a traditional app that can be loaded from the web and installed onto a computer.
It is a piece of code hosted on the platform GitHub. It is executable like a Gallery and functions as an app. It is a basic code, the purpose of which was to intimidate Muslim Women by leaking their details and photos in one place and attaching a price tag to it. The app was created in November last year and updated during New Year’s Eve.
GitHub connection in Bulli Bai Case
In both Bulli Bai and Sulli Deals cases, GitHub has been at its center. GitHub is owned by Microsoft and although it has taken down apps, there has been no statement on the matter by the platform. It has just issued a vague statement that says,” GitHub has longstanding policies against content and conduct involving harassment, discrimination, and inciting violence. We suspended a user account following the investigation of reports of such activity, all of which violate our policies.”
While everybody seems to be shrinking off their responsibility by giving statements or making arrests, the real question is when will this misuse of social media and the internet stop? What will it take for women in this country to live a free life with their dignity intact? Will any Government actually look out for women and their rights after making it a part of their election campaign agenda? I guess only time can answer these questions.
Meanwhile, what is your take on this matter? Let us know in the comments section below.