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Over 250 men were exposed Wednesday on Instagram as Grindr users when an unknown person posted their pictures onto an Instagram account. The Instagram profile remained online for 5 days, despite scores of people reporting it as bullying and harassment. It took backchannel communications by multiple Pakistani queer activists in and outside the country to finally have it flagged and removed Monday morning Pakistan time.
The gay male community, which is most affected by this unconscionable outing, has been in increasing consternation and panic, as each attempt to have the profile removed was rebuffed. Over the 5 days, the pictures posted increased from 189 to 252, including some profiles that the gay community clearly identified as not gay and not from Grindr.
In September of this year, someone posted a similar collection of stolen photos on an account named “Pak Grindr Boys”. At that time, the outing had caused panic in the community as men from all across Pakistan were targeted for public exposure and humiliation. Many members of the community were horrified and queer networks quickly mobilized to inform those who were exposed, and encourage a mass reporting of the account to Instagram. The offending account was taken down in a couple of days.
This time around, the offender targeted Lahore-based Grindr users specifically, making sure not to post any nude pictures, profanity or any text that made explicit its hateful purpose. The earlier “Pak Grindr Boys” account had announced that it was exposing the tops, bottoms, versatiles and married men cheating on their wives. With no preamble, the malicious offender avoided detection as a hate account while simultaneously using the power of Instagram follows to broadcast the stolen pictures as far as possible.
Some community members, in conversations and in online groups, have discussed the increasing danger of social media being used to fish for personal information so that it can be exposed in this manner. The use of fake profiles and stolen photographs is certainly not new to social media: many women experience the harassment of having their faces plastered on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles that do not belong to them, and sexual interests attributed to them that they have no knowledge of or interest in. What the gay community is experiencing is a type of online harassment that women of all sexualities have been experiencing for a while now. It behooves these communities to come together for the common cause of ending online intimidation, harassment and humiliation.
There is a spark of resilience, though, in the reaction of the gay community, who are sharing that they have reported the profile to Instagram, but only after cruising it for any hotties they may have missed on Grindr itself. Others have found this to be mere schadenfreude – taking pleasure in the misfortune of others – and bemoan the lack of solidarity within gay men in the community, as they say “Thank God it’s not me!” and move on with their day. Still others have said that such intimidation tactics, while horrific in themselves, are not going to deter them from using Grindr, hooking up and living their lives the way they want to.
It remains to be seen if this is a concerted and systematic effort to stigmatize, harass and bully gay men in Pakistan, or whether this is the vengeful act of loan, angry bigot. Regardless, we advise all users to take care in the information they share online and to report this and any such bigoted, bullying and hateful accounts.