changing story

Influencer who led campaign to out men now says she was merely trying to “humanize” gay people

Transgender beauty influencer Sofia Taloni (aka Naofal Moussa) says she never intended to hurt anyone when she encouraged people in Morocco to create fake profiles on gay dating apps to out closeted men in their communities.

Quick backstory: In a video posted to Instagram Live last month, Taloni instructed her 627,000 followers to create phony profiles and identify themselves as “bottoms” to make themselves more appealing to closeted men. After collecting the men’s pics, she told followers to circulate the images on Facebook to try and learn their identities.

In Morocco, homosexuality is punishable with up to three years in prison. LGBTQ people have no legal protections and are often subjected to harassment and physical violence. Within hours of Taloni’s video being posted, gay dating apps in Morocco were flooded with new users. Dozens of men were outed to their families and communities, and at least one committed suicide.

Related: Awful influencer encourages people to make fake Grindr profiles to out gay men

Now, in an interview with Reuters, Taloni now says she never meant for gay men to be exposed, and she certainly never intended for anyone to take their own life, when she led the vicious outing campaign. Instead, she was simply trying to raise awareness and “humanize” homosexuality in Morocco.

“My intention was to ‘humanize’, ‘un-demonize’ and ‘normalize’ gay people in Morocco so we stop thinking of them as outcasts,” she now says.

“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.”

But this doesn’t line up with what Taloni told The Moroccan Times last month, when she said she didn’t regret her actions because jealous gay people in her home country tried getting her profile deactivated and so they deserved to be outed.

“In all honesty, I did not want to out them, but they started this war,” she said at the time. “The Moroccan gay community shared my profile on many Facebook groups and were encouraging people to report me so that my account gets deactivated.”

She added, “They were outing me, out of jealously, because I am successful on various social media platforms,” before saying “I have no regrets whatsoever.”

Shortly after posting the video, Instagram deactivated Taloni’s account. She has since created another one and already has over 5,000 followers.

Related: Influencer who led campaign to out gay men has “no regrets” even after one victim dies by suicide