Mind numbing horror took over the internet on Sunday when several Muslim women stumbled upon their pictures, names and Twitter handles on a website's 'auction list.' The women were all part of a 'database' where users could take their pick on the 'deal of the day.'

The fact that the website 'Sulli Deals' was taken down immediately following uproar does not make matters any reassuring. The fact that it continued with its targeted harassment and cyberbullying for a good twenty days is a cause for major concern.

It all came to light when a Twitter user named "K" found out about the link of the website on the internet and spread the word about it. Unfortunately, she is among the women profiled and mentioned on the website.

Muslim women
[Representational Image]Reuters

"Muslim women on sale"

On July 4, after the social media uproar, suddenly many more Muslim women came to know of their names and details on a website 'selling and auctioning' them. 'Sulli' itself is a derogatory slang used to refer to Muslim women.

Reportedly, the open-source website selected profile photos of women, along with their names and Twitter handles, (without their consent or even knowledge). The users of the website had the option of sharing the picture of the woman with titles like, "Your sulli deal of the day is..."

Software development platform GitHub hosted the website, so far and took it down on Monday. The company spokesperson said in a statement to The Print, "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." While the official statement or apology is yet to be issued, meanwhile, Erica Brescia, Chief Operating Officer, GitHub confirmed via Twitter that the app has been removed.

Muslim women's photos, names used as
via Twitter user K

The owners of the website haven't yet been ascertained, while the date and timeline of uploaded pictures suggest that the website has been active for the past twenty days at least.

The website which self-described as, "a community-driven open source project," profiled mostly Indian Muslim women journalists, activists, in some cases students, artists, researchers, analysts and put them up on the website, 'for auction.' It has also come to light that while the majority of the women profiled were Indian, some were from other nationalities as well, including Pakistan. The information shared in these profiles included their names, profile pictures and mostly Twitter handles.

The plight of victims

Shell-shocked and infuriated, some of the victims, as per the statements shared with the media, are exploring legal actions. While an FIR with cybercrime branch is in order, so is a complaint with the National Commission for Women (NCW) a few of the victims are also contemplating taking no action discouraged by the conviction rate in similar cases.

Timing of the incident

The incident comes to light just a few weeks before Eid-ul-Adha takes place on July 21. Last year too, in May around the time of Eid-ul-Fitr, a Youtube Channel 'Liberal Doge' streamed Eid pictures of Muslim women and 'auctioned' women online based on these pictures. The channel was taken down following complaints registered against the channel with the police.

When anonymity brings out the worst side

Cyberspace is a breeding ground for bullying, harassment and crime.