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In Australia, Using Facebook to Threaten Feminists With Rape Could Get You Jail Time

An Australian man has agreed to plead guilty after he used Facebook to make sexual threats.

PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 22:  Tinder on display at the Billboard Winterfest at Park City Live! on January 22, 2016 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Billboard)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 22: Tinder on display at the Billboard Winterfest at Park City Live! on January 22, 2016 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Billboard)

Last August, Zach Alchin was scrolling through Facebook when he came across a photo his friend Chris Hall had shared of a woman’s Tinder profile. It showed a smiling 23-year-old named Olivia, accompanied by a quote from a popular Nicki Minaj and Drake song, “Type of girl that will suck you dry and then eat lunch with you.”

Hall posted the screenshot of the profile with the caption “Stay classy, ladies. Surprised she’d still be hungry for lunch.” The profile belonged to Olivia Melville, whose friends found Hall’s screenshot and came to her defense. That’s when Alchin chimed in, leaving 50 more comments on the photo, threatening feminists with rape, and claiming women should “never have been given rights.”

“The best thing about a feminist [is] they don’t get action so when you rape them it feels 100 times tighter,” he wrote. When one of Melville’s friends warned that she would contact the police if he didn’t stop, he asked “What law am I breaking? I’m not the one out of the fucking kitchen.”

Turns out he was likely breaking a decades-old law banning the use of a “carriage service to menace, harass or cause offense.” And despite initially pleading innocent, his lawyer informed a Sydney court on Monday that Alchin will change his plea to guilty for threatening sexual violence online.

He will be sentenced in July, and faces up to three years in prison.

According to court papers, after he was arrested, Alchin told police that he was responding to a “group of feminists that were harassing me and my friends.” He also claimed he was drunk when he made the comments and was not aware he was violating Australian law. Hall is not facing any charges for sharing the photo, but reportedly lost his job for breaching his company’s social media regulations. 

After the incident, Melville and her friend Paloma Brierly Newton — who initially contacted the police to report Alchin for harassment — launched a Facebook group called Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced. On Monday, the group said Alchin’s decision to plead guilty “sends a message to all women that they don’t have to put up with harassment online; that there are steps and channels they can take, and that Australian law is on their side.”

The case is the first time in Australian history that the law has been tied to online harassment. It previously has only been used in cases related to harassment via text message and telephone.

“This case will be the first of its kind and will represent a landmark victory for opponents of online harassment,” Newton said in a statement Monday. “We will no longer be silenced.”

Photo credit:  Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Billboard

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