The Delhi Police on Tuesday registered an FIR (first information report) against unknown persons over an offensive chat on Clubhouse, a social audio network, in which participants could be heard making derogatory comments about Muslim women.
Clips of the taped audio conversation have since been widely shared on social media platforms and though HT could not independently verify the authenticity of a 2.20 minute leaked audio clip that it is in possession of, the screen showed that there were at least 70 to 80 participants in the particular Clubhouse discussion.
This is the third such case in the past eight months, wherein offensive photographs or messages were posted online to target Muslim women. The first was the "Sulli Deals" app on GitHub in July and the second was the "Bulli Deals" app, which was flagged earlier this month. Both apps featured doctored photographs of prominent Muslim women along with offensive and derogatory comments about them. They were taken down after widespread outrage and the police registering cases against five men for creating the two apps. Police have maintained that the two alleged app developers -- Neeraj Bishnoi, a BTech student, and Aumkareshwar Thakur, a freelance web developer -- were self-radicalised.
In the Clubhouse case, the audio clips revealed participants purportedly making offensive comments about Muslim women during a discussion session that took place on Monday afternoon. The clip has since been widely circulated on other platforms, leading to public outcry.
On Tuesday, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) issued a notice to the Delhi Police's cybercrime unit, the Intelligence Fusion Strategic Operations (IFSO), seeking details of the action taken. The DCW also sought to know from the police why no one has been arrested in the matter so far.
KPS Malhotra, chief of the IFSO, said, " We have filed a case suo motu against unidentified persons. The case has been filed under Indian Penal Code sections of 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 295A (deliberate and malicious act, intended to outrage religious feelings), and 354A (sexual harassment). We have started the probe."
Clubhouse is a social audio app, where members can participate and listen in on chat sessions and discussions based on their topics of interest. The app has in the past been banned by a few countries after participants took part in similar offensive discussions.
In response to HT's email seeking a comment on the matter, a Clubhouse spokesperson said, "Clubhouse is a place for people around the world to spend time with friends, meet others, engage in discussions and learn. There is absolutely no place for hate or abuse on the platform. We invest significantly in keeping our community safe and take swift action at any violation of our policies. In this instance, the room was reported and those involved in organising were quickly actioned."
The spokesperson added that community health is a top priority for the platform and Clubhouse has built features such as room title reporting, blocking, shared block lists, removing replays, and NSFW filters, and improved policies to keep a check on real-time voice conversations and group discussions.
The investigation into the two offensive apps had initially hit a road block, after GitHub -- the platform where the apps were hosted -- refused to share details of its users -- the persons who had created the app.
Delhi Police was able to trace the alleged culprits and make arrests after one of the them, Neeraj Bishnoi, masked his identity on Twitter and claimed responsibility for the app. Bishnoi was arrested from his house in Jorhat, Assam. It was on his "confession statement" that police arrested Thakur from Indore, Bhopal. Thakur, police said, is the creator of the second GitHub app. Police have said the two men knew each other on social media platforms and were part of the same groups where the idea to come up with such apps was first discussed.