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Bully Bai app case: All you need to know!

INTRODUCTION 

The new year has put up curtain blows in the very initial days only. It has put a huge blow on women empowerment, fraternity among religions and others.

On January 1, the Bulli Bai issue erupted after many Muslim women were put up for auction on an app. However, unlike most frequently used apps, it is not available through the Google or Apple app stores.

Their images, many of which had been doctored, have been featured in the GitHub app, which is in general used by the developers to build as well as host software. Women of all ages who spoke out on controversial political and social issues were attacked.

Prominent journalists, campaigners, and lawyers were among those placed for ‘auction’ on the app. ‘Sulli Deals,’ which caused a stir last year by giving consumers a’sulli,’ a derogatory term for Muslim women popular among right-wing trolls, appeared to be a clone of the bad software. GitHub hosted that as well.   

GITHUB AND IT’S POLICY

GitHub is the world’s largest code repository, used by developers, startups, and even huge technology firms to pool the efforts of the whole coding community in order to build an app. Code repositories are intended to aid development around the world.

Developers, for example, can get the Android source code and use it to create their own version. A code repository allows a startup to easily obtain codes that will assist them in adding a new feature to their app or service.

Since anyone can sign up for free and host a public code repository, GitHub is extremely popular among open-source projects. Because of its user-friendly design, even inexperienced coders can benefit from these capabilities.

Microsoft Corp., Meta Platforms Inc. (Facebook), and Google LLC all make their source code available for others to use and develop on GitHub. In 2018, Microsoft paid $7.5 billion for GitHub, making it one of the company’s most costly acquisitions ever.

Google’s Android operating system source codes are also available on the platform. Facebook’s Android and iOS software development kits are available on GitHub. 

Harassment, discrimination, and encouragement to violence are all prohibited on GitHub. It has deactivated the accounts that were hosting the app, although its hosting capability isn’t intended for widespread use.

Apps downloaded from GitHub are unfinished and frequently contain flaws. Unlike social media, though, GitHub lacks filtering algorithms. 

In certain criminal cases if the crime is such that there is an involvement of any foreign territory, then the statutes in India would not be the ones who would be applicable directly. There are various mutual treaties which are signed between the countries in order to catch hold of the offenders and that they are punished appropriately. 

In criminal cases, MLATs are bilateral agreements between countries to provide international collaboration and support.

These agreements allow the participating countries to share evidence and information in criminal and related matters. Section 105 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) mentions the Central Government’s obligation to make reciprocal arrangements with foreign governments for the delivery of summons, warrants, and judicial processes.

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With 42 nations, India has signed Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties/Agreements. 

To obtain information from corporations situated abroad, authorities must follow a procedure outlined in the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). This is a time-consuming process involving several foreign ministries.

The Delhi Police issued a notice to GitHub under the Criminal Procedure Code, requesting the IP address of the web page where the programme was shared in the Sulli Deals case.

According to a report in The Hindu, the corporation reacted in October by saying that the police would have to follow the protocol outlined in MLAT. (For this reason, India’s impending Personal Data Protection Bill demands for the storage of some types of data within the country’s borders, among other things.)

It is nearly hard to prevent such tragedies with the introduction of technology and, in particular, social media platforms. Popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter utilize a combination of people and artificial intelligence (AI) to filter out criminal and offensive content, but these systems are far from flawless.

Github, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of these filters because it isn’t primarily a social network.

ACCOUNTABILITY OF APPS LIKE GITHUB AND TWITTER: – 

The concerned application had been made on the Github but it had been popularized by the help of twitter, as evidenced by the GitHub screenshots that accompanied the women’s Twitter usernames. This raises an important issue that should they have automated content filtering.

They may act as a form of exceeding the censorship but there lies requirement for the elimination of illicit content that would otherwise necessitate a lot of human effort.  It’s worth noting that India’s much-heralded Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were enacted to empower citizens and safeguard them from just these kinds of abuses.

These rules do not preclude the use of technology-based measures to combat hate speech, such as automated content screening systems. In fact, they enable and encourage intermediaries like Twitter and GitHub to use such tools to “proactively identify information that depicts any act or simulation in any form”—whether explicitly or implicitly containing rape or child sexual abuse material (CSAM), or “any information that is exactly identical in content to information that has previously been removed.”

According to the guidelines, GitHub and Twitter are both Significant Social Media Intermediaries (SSMIs), which means that the restrictions regarding the use of automated tools apply to them.

Because it is not essential for these corporations to use automatic content filtering technologies in India, they may not impose penalties for non-compliance. However, it is vital that they do so as a matter of public policy. 

A SOCIOLOGICAL PORTRAYL

As evidenced by the open-source programme Bulli Bai, which is hosted on the web platform GitHub for “auctioning Muslim women,” these can strain the country’s fragile social fabric. Sulli Bargains, a website containing profiles of roughly 80 Muslim women, was launched in July of last year, presenting them as “deals of the day.” 

While the Bulli Bai and Sulli Deals made headlines, and the Mumbai and Delhi police are working with the Computer Emergency Response Team, India (CERT-IN) to track down the perpetrators, there are many unreported cases of women being subjected to cyber bullying, stalking, threats, and blackmail.

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Many times, days before a wedding, police officers are called by worried parents asking assistance with fake accounts or modified images of their daughters on the internet. In India, where marriage is an extremely sensitive matter, even the tiniest blemish on the bride’s “character” might result in the ceremony being cancelled.

As a result, no formal police report is ever filed. Under the Indian Penal Code, Information Technology Act, and Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports just 251 incidents of defamation or morphing of women’s images and 354 cases of their fake profiles in “Crime in India 2020.” 

The harsh reality is that online blackmail, stalking, and bullying is a massive problem that puts women and their families under a lot of stress. It is not limited to major cities or to a specific caste or society. Small towns have also been severely affected.

However, there is a lot of reluctance to report. According to NCRB figures, India’s total cybercrimes in 2020 were 50,035, with just 10,405 exclusively targeting women. These figures hardly scratch the surface of the situation.

The only way to determine the full scope of cybercrime is to notify and register as soon as possible. Cyber criminals are encouraged and emboldened by the lack of willingness to report/register their crimes.

They’re using social media images of women to promote online sex conversations and pornography, as well as blackmailing and bullying the victims. They’ve become into rash “experts” at altering images and eluding law enforcement agents.

Many transnational gangs are able to elude detection since their “servers” are located outside of India. It is necessary to pursue international collaboration through official treaties and informal means. In this aspect, CERT-IN has done outstanding job.

However, initiating a criminal case is the first and most crucial step since it sets the law in motion, allowing the criminals to be hunted down, arrested, and punished even if they are outside of the nation. 

Citizens must report cybercrime promptly, police must conduct technically competent investigations supported by forensics, and court cases must be completed on time to apprehend cyber criminals who terrorize individuals, particularly women, in both the virtual and real worlds. 

LAWS TO PREVENT BULLYING, AND CAN THEIR ENFORCEMENT

Cyberbullying is a behavior that has sparked outrage throughout the legal system, but there is no specific statute in India to address it. It is a relatively recent phenomena that has emerged in the age of the internet.

Cyberbullying is described as the use of internet communication to bully someone, most commonly through sending intimidating or threatening messages. There is no explicit legislation in India that addresses cyberbullying, however there are provisions in the Information Technology Act and the Indian Penal Code that deal with such issues in part.

Acts like sending or uploading obscene messages on the internet or posting any humiliating content in relation to the victim could be a few forms of the of the many ways of cyberbullying. 

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This is a situation that exists not only in India, but also in other nations. This problem affects people of all ages, with the most difficult challenge being identifying the bully on the internet or in cyberspace. Dealing with such difficulties is hampered by technological limitations.

Institutional infrastructure must be established to deal with this form of bullying. It is the largest difficulty for legislators to cope with in the current period of uncontrolled expansion of cyber bullying. 

Regulations may not be able to prevent such situations, but they can certainly expedite the investigation. Because many internet companies are based abroad, police must rely on a time-consuming Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty process involving many foreign governments to obtain information.

This is one of the reasons why India’s impending Data Protection Bill (DPB) calls for some data to be stored within the country’s boundaries so that it may be retrieved swiftly when needed. Bills like the DPB, on the other hand, are unlikely to put an end to apps like Bulli Bai in the future. 

WAY FORWARD 

The laws alone can not be successful in dealing with such issues. This app in a certain sense also acts as a mirror to the society we are living in.

It is an acceptable thing that the people in the society would have multiple opinions or beliefs and each should be respected the same way.  In order that such events do not occur we need to educated the young population and the same time the others should also realize the fact that there should be respect for the different communities, different genders and the variety of opinions as well. 

Another way may be to raise knowledge about cyber safety and security so that young people, particularly young girls and women, take appropriate precautions when online. This isn’t something that can be left up to the cops.

Schools, colleges, universities, and communities must play an active part in educating their students about the prevalence of cyberbullying and the various safety measures and channels.

We must also include social media platforms and push them to monitor and check harmful activity, as well as develop extra safeguards for users, particularly women and children.  

References

  • Ahooja, R. (2022, January 9). GitHub And Twitter’s Complicity In The Auctioning Of Indian Women At The ‘World’s Public Square’ . LiveLaw.
  • Banerjee, P. (2022, January 7). What is GitHub’s role in the Bulli Bai controversy? . Mint.
  • Bhandari, H. (2021, August 19). Probe in ‘Sulli deals’ case hits legal hurdle . The Hindu.
  • Borwankar, M. C. (2022, January 6). Bulli Bai is latest example ofharassment women face online. The Indian Express .
  • CORRESPONDENT, S. (2022, January 5). Bulli Bai case: ‘Level of depravity is shocking’. The Hindu.
  • Digital, C. (2022, January 3). India is investigating a fake website that offered Muslim women for sale . CTV NEWS.
  • Newsdesk, N. (2022, January 4). The Bulli Bai Controversy Explained In 5 Points. NDTV.
  • Rangroo, A. (2022, January 7). Bulli Bai case: GitHub and the legal bottleneck investigators face . The Economic Times.

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