Mar 11, 2022

The Menace of Online Harassment

Two names have been in the news a lot lately – ‘Bulli Bai’ and ‘Sulli Deals’. The Delhi and Mumbai Police have made several arrests across the country in connection with these names. Let’s find out what the controversy is all about.

What are the ‘Bulli Bai’ and ‘Sulli Deals’ apps?

‘Sulli Deals’ was an open-source app hosted on GitHub, which allegedly held virtual auctions for prominent and vocal Muslim women, including journalists, activists, artists or researchers. It featured photos and details of Muslim women taken from their social media profiles, along with a “price tag” for each woman. Following complaints from several women, they took the app down in July 2021.

‘Bulli Bai’ is a clone app, also hosted on the coding website GitHub, on which morphed images of hundreds of Muslim women were found listed up for auction as traditional help. The app appeared online in January 2022 and sparked a huge controversy on social media.

Who are the creators of the ‘Bulli Bai’ and ‘Sulli Deals’ apps?

Both apps are believed to be created by college students, a few of whom have been arrested now. The creator of ‘Sulli Deals’ had given access to the code of the app on GitHub, and anyone could have downloaded it to create a similar app. It is believed that  the code used to create the ‘Sulli Deals’ app was also used to create the ‘Bulli Bai’ app. The arrested college students, some of whom refer to themselves as “Trads” or “Traditionals”, are reportedly members of Twitter groups where hate messages against the Muslim community are frequently shared.

What steps have the authorities taken to ensure that similar apps do not appear in the future?

At present, GitHub has removed both the apps and suspended the accounts of the creators. However, it is not clear how GitHub intends to moderate content on its platform to ensure that similar apps with an intent to harass women or the Muslim community are not created and hosted in the future.

In India, under the new IT Rules, all ‘significant social media intermediaries’ musthave a Grievance Officer in India. Users can make complaints about offensive content to this Grievance Officer. A significant social media intermediary is a social media platform with more than 5 million registered users in India. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and others have appointed their Grievance Officers. 

GitHub is a platform where developers can upload their codes or software and collaborate with others to work on it. Technically, this is not a social media platform, since instead of photos or messages, computer codes are shared on this platform. So, it has not been mandated to appoint a Grievance Officer in India.

What are the remedies available to women in similar cases of online harassment?

The best remedy available to women in such cases of online harassment is to file a complaint with the police. The Cyber Crime Cell of the police will ensure that the concerned platform takes the offensive content down. They will also register a complaint under Section 504 read with 509 of the IPC, which deals with the offence of outraging the modesty of a woman. Sections 66E (violation of privacy), Section 67 (publishing obscene material) and Section 67A (publishing sexually explicit material) are offences under the IT Act, 2000, which can also be invoked in such cases. 

Alternatively, you can file a complaint at the National Cyber Crime Reporting portal at You will need to give related information including the category of the cybercrime, date and time of the incident. For any guidance about this process, you can call the National Crime Reporting Portal’s toll-free number: 155260.

For more actionable information on steps for reporting online harassment, read our explainer on Online Abuse

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