In her letter, Chaturvedi contended that women from a particular community had been degraded and humiliated by the Sulli Deals app which was the subject of massive online outrage last month.
Nearly a month after news of the ‘Sulli Deals’ app first emerged, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi has written to the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw requesting him to take “urgent and strict actions” on the matter.
In her letter, sent on Friday, Chaturvedi noted that no ‘real progress’ had been made on the case despite complaints being registered with both the Noida and Delhi Police. MediaNama has viewed a copy of Chaturvedi’s letter.
Why it matters? In early July, news broke that an application developed on Git-Hub called ‘Sulli Deals’ was auctioning Muslim women online and attaching their Twitter usernames and profile pictures without their consent. This, victims said, made them targets of widespread online harassment, including rape threats, and subjected them to humiliation. The act could be subject to action under the government’s Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which require intermediaries to voluntarily takedown content ‘insulting or harassing on gender’.
According to a report last week, three weeks after complaints were filed with the Noida and Delhi Police on the issue, there has been no progress and GitHub has not responded to the police’s requests for information.
‘Lays bare protection and safety of women, especially in cyberspace’: Chaturvedi
Apart from issuing a call to action, Chaturvedi in her letter said that-
- The purpose of the app (Sulli Deals) was to degrade and humiliate women belonging to a particular community.
- Some of the women have since then deleted their social media accounts and many others said they were afraid of further harassment.
- In a country where women are already struggling with gender bias, these incidents yet again lay bare the protection and safety of women, especially in cyberspace.
- The lack of stringent and efficient preventive laws and punishments for such cases only motivates the perpetrators.
Steps taken to tackle online sexual harassment
- Under the IT Rules, which came into effect in May this year, social media intermediaries like Twitter, Facebook, Koo, etc. have to take down content that is insulting or harassing on the basis of gender.
- The Indian Penal Code Section 509 carries provisions that cover “word or act intended to outrage the modesty of a woman.” It can lead to imprisonment for a year or a fine, or both.
- In July, the government announced that it has launched the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal to enable the public to report incidents pertaining to all types of cyber crimes, with a special focus on cyber crimes against women and children.
- Recently, Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter made commitments at the UN Generation Equality Forum in Paris on July 1 to tackle online abuse of women on their platforms.
A timeline of the Sulli Deals controversy
- July 5: Responding to the outrage against the app on Twitter, GitHub COO Erica Brescia tweets that the account has been suspended.
- July 6: An FIR is lodged by a woman against unknown persons for allegedly circulating pictures of several Muslim women without their consent on the GitHub-based application ‘Sulli Deals’.
- July 7: Swati Maliwal, the chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women, writes a letter to the Deputy Commissioner, Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police demanding information about action that had been taken on the matter.
- July 8: The National Commission of Women takes suo motu cognisance of the case and Chairperson Rekha Sharma writes to the Delhi Commissioner of Police asking him to inform them, within 10 days, about the action taken on the case.
- July 12: A notice is served by a victim to Twitter Inc seeking, among other things, compensation of Rs 10 Lakhs for not taking action against content related to the ‘Sulli Deals’ app being shared on the platform.
- July 15: Another complaint is filed with the Delhi Police on the matter by a victim.
- July 26: Anyesh Roy, DCP (Cyber Cell) reportedly says that, “We sent notices to GitHub but haven’t received a reply. Our team has approached them several times but there’s been no response.”
- ICLU sends notice to Twitter over circulation of ‘Sulli Deals’ content
- FIR filed against ‘Sulli Deals’ app after Muslim women harassed online
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