Over 50 Muslim women recently had their photos, along with Twitter accounts, revealed without their consent through an auctioning app called 'Sulli Deals'. The app, which was uploaded on repository hosting service GitHub, has now been taking down by the platform.
"GitHub has long-standing policies against content and conduct involving harassment, discrimination, and inciting violence. We suspended user accounts following the investigation of reports of such activity, all of which violate our policies", a GitHub spokesperson told BOOM in an emailed response.The matter came to light on Monday morning, as scores of users took to Twitter to complain about the app and shared screenshots with their names and pictures.
Noida-based law student Aman Banka stated on Twitter that he had filed a complaint with the Special Police Unit for Women and Child against the creators of the app.
"It sent shock waves down my spine"
"You know those Facebook apps - 'what animal do you look like', 'which princess do you look like' - and you could share your results. 'Sulli Deals' was something like that," said Hana Mohsin Khan, a pilot by profession, in a conversation with BOOM. She was one of the many women who had her name and photo revealed on the app.
"When I went on the app, there was a button there called 'Find your sulli'. When I clicked some random girls' picture came. Then I clicked on it again, then a friend of mine comes up," Khan said.
She did two more tries, only to find another friend's picture, followed by hers. "And then it dawned on me - we are the sulli of the day. It sent shock waves down my spine", she added.
'Sulli' is a derogatory term used to refer to Muslim women.
Khan, too, had filed an FIR against the creators of the app.
While it is not clear yet as to who created the app, a user with the name 'idk man' (@sdfrgt4rf) claimed on Twitter to be the creator. The account - which was created in June 2021 - has now been suspended by Twitter.
In an archive of his tweets, the user had stated, "I'm the guy who created that sullideal app. I used paid VPN & used protonmail. You guys won't be able to track me so stop crying infront (sic) of github. It will go up soon, just wait and watch."
An investigation by BOOM revealed that the GitHub account was created using the email firstname.lastname@example.org. The email itself was created on June 13, 2021.
To prove that he was indeed the creator, the user also posted a screenshot of his ProtonMail inbox, with an email from GitHub welcoming him to the platform, while addressing him as @sullideals.
We also found another account @sullideals101 who had posted the app's link on the Twitter bio. This account too had shared private information of Muslim women on Twitter, and was eventually suspended by the microblogging platform.
This handle had also been linked to another similar incident in a few months ago.
BOOM's investigation also revealed that the profiles, along with the photos, being revealed on the app were taken from Twitter itself.
The Liberal Doge Livestream Incident
This is not the first time Muslim women had their private information revealed on a public forum. On May 13, a YouTube channel by the name of "Liberal Doge Live" did a livestream, where he put out photos and videos of Muslim women from Pakistan and India.
The event was initially promoted on YouTube by the user as "Eid Special", but eventually spilled on to Twitter as an auctioning of the women's profiles.
"Eid was a difficult time for us, as we were battling the second wave. Even then, these people did something like that," Khan said.
According to an article by The Print, users @giyu2002, @Pinakishiv3, and @sullideals101 were involved in a social media exchange on this topic.
An investigation by Newslaundry had revealed that the person behind the Liberal Doge account is Ritesh Kumar Jha, a tech-savvy 23-year-old individual from Bihar. Jha runs a number of Telegram channels under the pseudonym LiberalDoge, where users shared Islamophobic content.
BOOM reached out to Jha, who declined to comment, and claimed to not know anything about Liberal Doge. We were not able to directly link Jha to the creation of the 'Sulli Deals' app.
With additional inputs from Sujith A.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Amit Banka as a lawyer. The error is regretted.