On Sunday, a series of disturbing screenshots went viral on Instagram when a user posted snippets from a group chat named ‘Bois Locker Room’. All members of the group, who were largely teenage boys in the age group 15-16 from Delhi, had been allegedly sharing photos of underage girls, objectifying their bodies using morphed images and obscene texts.
These snippets, in a matter of hours, had widely been shared across multiple platforms including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc. Huge outrage followed and rage sharing and shaming began unfolding. In a news that finally speaks of some tough government action, the Delhi Commission for Women has now issued a notice to both Instagram and Delhi police taking a ‘suo momot cognizance of the matter’, highlighting the illegality of it and asking for a quick action against the perpetrators.
The notice also sought for the details of each group member and the admin of ‘Bois locker room’, their usernames/handles, their email Ids, their passwords, location, IP adresses etc. Further the notice enquired from both the parties whether they had taken cognizance of the matter and made arrests or taken any action and if they didn’t not, to state a reason for the same.
"I saw screenshot of '#BoysLockerRoom' group on #Instagram. This is a clear example of a gruesome criminal & rapist mindset," DCW Chief @SwatiJaiHind said.
"We are issuing a notice to Instagram and Delhi Police. All the boys in this group should be arrested," she added. pic.twitter.com/OB2QQYzDPa
— IANS Tweets (@ians_india) May 4, 2020
When contacted, a Facebook spokesperson provided the following prepared statement to The Tech Portal, “We absolutely do not allow behaviour that promotes sexual violence or exploits anyone, especially women and young people, and have actioned content violating our Community Standards as we were made aware of it. We have policies that disallow the sharing of non-consensual intimate imagery, as well as threats to share such imagery and we take this issue very seriously. Ensuring our community can express themselves in a safe and respectful way is our top priority.”
Delhi Police Cybercrime Cell filed a case against the accused on May 4 and began its enquiry.
Apparently, the group chat which has now been deleted, had been operational and active since months now and only recently someone from within had realized the gravity of the matter and shared the questionable screenshots and details of the group members. From collecting, sharing private pictures of the girls, passing lewd comments, sexualizing their female schoolmates/friends to ‘planning gangrapes’, enough of all the evidence had been shared to call out doxing ( sharing of private data with the intent of harassment) and the breach of privacy.
With the advent of technology and the platform that social media provides to its users, incidents like this one only record for the extent one’s digital footprints can part information to harassers. Even though media reports suggest that all teenage boys from the group have been identified and are in the process of getting arrested, the real question still remains. How many locker rooms do we have to shut before acknowledging the part each one of us are playing in holding up this ‘rape culture’? Social media, private chats, groups on various platforms are only the digital tools at immediate disposal of the perpetrators.
The incident also begs a question over Instagram’s handling of such accounts. Considering that the group was being operated by underage boys and was serving morphed images, why were there no red-flags or policy violations within the platform itself? The incident also further validates the need for much more stringent controls on accounts being handled by underage users.
This story has been updated with a statement from Instagram-parent Facebook.