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On Sunday, 3 May, in a horrific sequence of events, a private Instagram group with 100 members—mostly teenage boys from prominent South Delhi schools—called ‘Bois Locker Room’ was first exposed by a few Instagram influencers for sharing pictures of underage girls, sexually objectifying them, and passing lewd comments.
Following a complaint, the Delhi Police Cyber Cell lodged an FIR on Monday. As per the latest reports, the police have apprehended one 15-year-old in the case. Following that, they questioned five students between Classes 10 and 12 from prominent South Delhi schools with their parents for six hours yesterday. As per The Indian Express, notices have been sent to other 21 members in the group by the Delhi Police.
“A private school administration in South Delhi had first filed a complaint at Saket Police Station on Monday, following which we investigated the matter,” says a police officer involved with the case.
“After initiating surveillance, we discovered the registered number of a 15-year-old, who was among those who had shared a photo on the group. Although the said person had switched off his phone, we tracked down his address and picked him up later in the evening,” he added.
The Instagram group was reportedly created by these students during the last week of March, following which they started adding their friends. Some in this group are currently studying in colleges as well, notes the officer.
Exposing the filth
The expose happened when Instagram influencers like Aashna Sharma and @Anuvaa posted screenshots from a group titled ‘Bois locker room’ that they received from a whistleblower.
The post read:
“A group of south Delhi guys aged 17-18 types have this ig gc [Instagram group chat] named “boy’s locker room” where they… objectify and morph pictures of girls their age. Two boys from my school are a part of it. MY FRIENDS AND I ARE FREAKING OUT THIS IS SO EWWW AND NOW MY MOM WANTS ME TO QUIT IG.”
Since influencers had shared this on Instagram stories that wouldn’t last beyond 24 hours, other Indian netizens began sharing them as well on their feeds for broader reach.
View this post on Instagram
Trigger warning: Vulgarity, degradation, objectification of women. . Do NOT try to tell me this is normal. You’re EQUALLY responsible if you’re normalizing it. . #boislockerroom #rapeculture #rapeawareness #objectification #report #boysgc #rapistmindset #antirapeculturec #vulgarity #objectification #degradation #sexualremarks #underagegirls #childsexualabuse #sexualabuse #harrasment @kuna_kamra @kushakapila @iawaken.in @takedownthepatriarchy @theanti_rapeculture @lilly @yahyabootwala @fifisdiary @heli_ved @angrybrowngal
Subsequently, news of the incident found its way to Twitter, and #boyslockerroom began trending on the platform. Once these screenshots began garnering greater attention, the group was named and shamed.
However, instead of exhibiting any semblance of remorse or guilt, they began issuing grotesque threats of rape, violence, kidnapping, and morphing pictures of influencers who had first posted the stories and shared them,
That’s when the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) stepped in and took suo motu cognizance of the matter, as did the Delhi Police Cyber Cell.
DCW chief @SwatiJaiHind issues notice to Instagram and Delhi Police in the matter of a group named “boys locker room” being used by some miscreants to share objectionable pictures of minor girls and planning illegal acts such as rape of minor girls. #boyslockerroom pic.twitter.com/PyzxGCv7kt
— Delhi Commission for Women – DCW (@DCWDelhi) May 4, 2020
Media reports indicate that the FIR filed by the Delhi Police has been registered under Sections 465 (forgery), 471 (using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 469 (forgery for the purpose of harming reputation), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and Sections 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) and 67A (publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act.
Speaking to The Better India, Shubham Singh, the founder of Cyber World Academy, who routinely works with Mumbai and Maharashtra Police in cyber crime-related cases, said that a couple of outraged Instagram users reached out to him with screenshots of the chats.
“Although some in the group had deleted their Instagram accounts, we were able to track their information from accounts on other social media platforms and email IDs. I have sent all that information to the officers in Delhi Police. They haven’t responded to me yet, but the information I have sent will pass legal scrutiny,” he says.
Singh regularly assists in cases related to financial fraud, social media-related fraud, besides helping the police in analyzing data during their investigations into other conventional crimes committed like extortion and kidnapping.
“What we saw with the recent Bois Locker Room episode on Instagram has happened before on other social media platforms. In fact, similar groups indulging in such behavior came up on Snapchat and Reddit as well. There was already a Boys Locker 2.0 that had also come up, but it was later deleted after the current outrage,” he says.
Singh believes social media platforms have to do a better job of authenticating users on their platform. They are doing a shoddy job of regulating non-consensual explicit content. Meanwhile, for youngsters using these platforms, he has a simple piece of advice.
“My request to potential victims of these acts is that ideally they shouldn’t share private content with another person and as much as possible strengthen the privacy settings on their accounts.”
SM Platforms Need to do More
A Facebook spokesperson issued a statement to the press saying, “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.”
But talk is cheap. In this particular scenario, they failed massively. Yes, the deeply problematic views expressed by those on the group is reflective of a more extensive societal failing. Still, social media platforms have to do a better job of ensuring these episodes don’t occur. They have to ensure people “can express themselves in a safe and respectful way.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)