The truth behind #BoisLockerRoom

More teenagers are getting involved in cybercrimes due to increasing internet usage and easy accessibility on social media platforms writes Madiha Raza

In the times of Covid-19 pandemic when life became idle under lockdown, netizens turned out to be more vigorous, especially millennials inclined to erotic activities that tangentially engaged them to serious crimes.

Earlier this month, an incident sparked huge outrage on social media, when Twitter and Facebook were flooded with the comments bursting of anger and remonstration over the Bios Locker room chat group. An Instagram private chat group where teenagers allegedly posted lecherous and objectionable content, shared screenshots of obscene chats, nude morphed images of underage school girls, with lustful comments, body shaming and gang-rape discussions. The group had members particularly young boys and girls from renowned schools of the national capital and around. The admin of the group was a class 12 student.

The incident came to light when two girls of this group posted the screenshots of the chats that contained morphed nude images and lustful and offensive comments for underage girls. “We can rape her easily, I will come where ever you say, I will call one or two boys more. We’ll together gangrape her.” These are the chats that were appeared on the #BoisLockerRoom on Instagram that fizzled huge rage among netizens on the conduct of these boys, normalizing of rape and misogyny.

Delhi High Court on 18 May, directed the Cyber Cell Unit of the Delhi Police to complete the inquiry into the ‘boys locker room’ incident expeditiously and file a report. A plea in the high court required immediate detention of all the members of the controversial Instagram chat group and for the case to be investigated by the CBI or SIT.  Later on 19 May, the Delhi High Court pursued response of the Centre on an appeal looking for directions to it to confirm social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram eliminate illegal groups such as ‘Bois Locker Room’, “for the safety and security of children” in cyberspace.

According to the petition filed by advocate Virag Gupta “Due to the negativity, fake news and illegal content many young lives are destroyed. Such groups are criminal in nature and do not deserve any protection of free or creative speech.”

Police investigating the case is silent, refusing to name those in the chat. Three have been detained after details of the chat went public. Among those arrested are the chat administrator and a juvenile. There are doubts that the inquiry could be muted up because students of some of the top schools in Gurugram and Delhi were tangled in the chat. And their parents are among city’s high-profile individuals. More than 30 mobile phones have been grabbed and sent for legal investigation under this case. The admin of the group is now under police custody.

Earlier during investigation, a new twist appeared that entirely changed the story. Another loop muddled everybody when police revealed that a juvenile girl changed her identity and created a fake snap chat profile and discussed sexual assault on a girl with another minor boy. The involvement of this girl was discovered in the snapchat conversation that was leaked along with the Instagram chatroom #Boislockerroom. Besides Instagram messages a snapchat conversation with a boy named Siddharth inciting rape also went viral few days after the case was filed in Delhi High Court.

According to Delhi Police investigation report, the girl had created a fake account as Siddharth only to check how the boys in the group would react on sexual assault plan. Delhi Police claims the one-to-one Snapchat conversation, which went viral last month, was actually a conversation between a boy and a girl. Delhi Police Crime Branch revealed “The alleged Snapchat conversation is really between a girl (sender) and a boy (receiver) during which the girl is sending chat messages through a fictional Snapchat account named ‘Siddharth’, Using the fake identity of a male , she suggested within the chat, an idea to sexually assault herself,”

However, the parents of the chat group members claimed that the story has been diverted by the cops, changing the approach of the girls faking names of boys to bury the scandal and hide the facts. After further investigation, the police have said that this snapchat conversation, got mixed up in the Bois locker Room scandal, which was a series of Instagram chat group. However, Bois locker room investigation is still underway.

Additionally, a different investigation is going on to get details of a suicide of a 17-year-old boy from Gurugram. The boy committed suicide just 10 days before details of the chat went viral. During interrogation Police said the boy was anxious that if an FIR was lodged, his parents would be offended. A written complaint has also been made by the parents to Gurugram Police, seeking a case be registered under sections related to abetment to suicide.

In the initial investigation the case was registered under section 465 of forgery for the purpose of harming reputation, section 509 intending to insult the modesty of any women and Section 67 and 67A of IT Act at cyber cell of Delhi Police Act. But major loops and variations in the case made it difficult to identify the realities of this case.

Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal issued notices to the Delhi Police as well as to Instagram. The commission also questioned Instagram to share significant evidence such as user IDs and locations of each group member, and its administrators. She also took to Instagram and wrote, “DCW has issued 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 like gangrape of minor girls. All the people involved in this activity should be immediately arrested and a strong message needs to be given out.”

During previous inquiries, a PIL was also registered by petitioner Dev Ashish Dubey in the Delhi High Court looking for SIT or CBI enquiry for this scandal and demanded to arrest the offenders who all are engaged in this heinous activity. He also asked protection for the girls and women who have highlighted the wrongdoing of Delhi school students so that they cannot be harmed by the members of the group. According to him when the leaked screenshots of the group chats went viral and people were infuriated by such misconduct, the boys openly threatened the girls who had outed them”.

According to one of the posts on Intagram that states one of the members commented, “Let’s post nude photos of all girls who posted stories about us. I have photos of some of them. Now they will know the result of these shenanigans. They will shut their mouth. They want to be feminists na… they will not be able to show their face in public”, the plea stated.

Earlier, a petition filed by Advocates Dushyant Tiwari and Om Prakash Parihar to the Centre and Delhi government to urge the social media chat group event interrogated through a Special Investigation Team (SIT) or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). According to them “the entire issue must be investigated by the SIT or CBI as these students belong to well-connected families and there’s a fear that the enquiry conducted by the local police will be influenced and wrongdoers will never be arrested and punished”.

Meanwhile, a Facebook spokesperson in a press statement said, “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.”

Cybercrimes do not generally leave physical footprints like other types of crimes and they are committed in a borderless, cosmopolitan environment. Teenagers are more likely to getting involved in cybercrime due to increasing internet routine and easy accessibility on social media platforms.  Most of them do it for enjoyment without realising the impacts of their actions.

This is the result of low online self-control leading to what we could call teens’ “attraction to cyber deviation”, executing in the virtual world, a place where it is more appealing, effortless and easier to commit a crime.

The case is an alarming threat to our society, especially for the new generations. Sexual violence is widespread and cyberworld encourages it and makes it possible to succeed. There is a need of having an open talk with young people — at both family and institutional levels on such tight-lipped issues. Moreover, women should be more vigilant to defend themselves from battered online attacks. Even women need to understand that problems such as rape and sexual assault cannot be disparaged.