Bengaluru woman’s OLX nightmare: Creeps send lewd messages, vulgar pictures

OLX asks anyone posting an ad to specify their number, and does not have an option to block others from seeing it
Bengaluru woman’s OLX nightmare: Creeps send lewd messages, vulgar pictures
Bengaluru woman’s OLX nightmare: Creeps send lewd messages, vulgar pictures
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When Bengaluru’s Neha Shah decided to sell a few old belongings on OLX a couple of weeks ago, she never imagined that it would end up becoming a sickening nightmare. Not only were there annoying calls asking for her age and seeking friendship, but creeps were also sending her pictures of their private parts. Blocking them would be to no avail, since many would simply switch to another number.

On October 25, things went out of hand. One man started sending her obscene messages, including explicit pictures. After blocking the number on WhatsApp, the person continued to harass her on Viber. This acted as the final straw. She narrated her ordeal on Facebook and reported the matter to OLX. A day later, she says, OLX responded by asking her to pull the ad down and promised that their legal team would look into the matter, but without any mechanism for Neha to follow up. She was not happy with their response, as she believed they were ‘simply closing the matter’.

OLX requires every person posting an advertisement to specify their number, and does not provide an option to prohibit others from seeing it - an option provides. “Having users provide their phone number serves a larger utility for sellers and potential buyers – providing them the ease to contact each other,” says a senior OLX official.

She also points out that the actual harassment took place on other platforms and not OLX. “We are mindful that there are a few instances of user harassment where contact has been made though our platform. We care for our users, especially women. However, being a mere platform, there are intrinsic limitations to what we can do in such instances, especially when it’s clear from user’s account that the actual harassment has taken place on platforms like other chat and social media platforms,” she says.

Upon being asked about OLX's redressal of the complaint, she says, "The number was blocked immediately after the user complained ensuring that anyone using this number will not be able to post an Ad on our platform."

OLX says that among the measures they undertake to prevent such instances of harassment are deploying technical filters to block abusive content over chat and blocking harassers from accessing the platform as soon as information regarding harassment is received.

But many believe that such measures might not be enough.

Tinu Cherian, PR & Marketing Manager at a global IT services company says, “Customer's Privacy is the key to their trust. If there is a misuse of the information from the website, they will eventually lose the customers. And by being vague and non-committal when they raise issues is the worst response”

In her Facebook post, Neha summed up what women in the country have to face aptly, “If you escape rape, you may encounter eve teasing, if you escape eve teasing you may realise you are being groped, if you are strong enough to raise your voice against this, then try escaping friendship calls from some jerks, or the humiliating and intimidating perverted messages.” (sic)

Also read: Getting unsolicited naked pics on your phone or mail? Know about 'cyberflashing'

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