The transgender Instragram influencer who has been blamed with sparking a campaign that has been used to out gay men in Morocco has apologized for her actions.
Naoufal Moussa, a Turkey-based beauty influencer also known as Sofia Taloni, told her 620,000 Instagram followers during a broadcast last month that they should download various dating apps to locate gay men, so they could see how many of their family members, friends, or neighbors were gay.
Following Moussa’s broadcast, a number of people downloaded the apps and began chatting with men using fake profiles, tricking them into sharing pictures and personal information. That information was then used to “out” several men, and to blackmail others.
Many of those outed claimed that they were experiencing harassment and violence, often at the hands of family members, while others became homeless after being kicked out of their homes.
Speaking with Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email interview, Moussa said she regretted that her advice was used to “target gay men instead of bringing them closer to the mainstream society” in Morocco, where homosexuality is illegal. She claimed she never intended to out gay men for malicious purposes.
“My intention was to ‘humanize’, ‘un-demonize’ and ‘normalize’ gay people in Morocco so we stop thinking of them as outcasts,” she said. “I literally wanted people to think of gay people as the man or woman next door and to stop the negative fantasy about who gay people are, how they look like and how they live.”
Moussa’s Instagram and Facebook accounts were suspended last month by Facebook, which said it did not approve of outing. Grindr and several other dating apps warned gay men in Morocco to be cautious due to the fact that their information could have been compromised.
Human Rights Watch has called on the Moroccan government to repeal its law criminalizing homosexuality, saying that the law only encourages harassment or violence directed against sexual minorities.
One Moroccan gay man in his early twenties, who spoke to Thomson Reuters Foundation on condition of anonymity, said Moussa’s apology was a “sign of maturity.”
“If she apologized then it is an admission of the suffering of minorities due to her actions,” he said. “We aren’t against her, but she harmed a lot of people. We have a real problem with the system and how it builds monsters and internalized homophobia and transphobia.”
But the Moroccan LGBTQ advocacy group Nassawiyat, which has been helping several of the men who were outed, said Moussa’s apology wasn’t enough, and that she should use her platform to “raise awareness about homosexuality and transexuality.”
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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com
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