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Man pleads guilty to online harassment due to abusive Facebook comments

In a landmark event, a 25-year-old man has pleaded guilty of a crime under the Australian criminal code after harassing women online.

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Activist group Sexual Violence Won't Be Silenced.

SVWBS

Zane Alchin, 25, has pleaded guilty to using a carriage service (in this case, the internet) to menace, harass or cause offence, a crime detailed under section 474.17 of the Criminal Code. After a friend of Alchin's had posted a screenshot of a woman's Tinder profile on Facebook in August last year, Alchin had written a number of abusive posts to a Paloma Brierley Newton, who had come to the first woman's defence. That same day, the two women went to the police.

Alchin had announced in October last year that he intended to plead not guilty. However, when the case was due to be heard at the Downing Centre Local Court this week, Alchin's lawyer announced he had changed his plea.

Many women on the internet deal with online abuse in some form -- in Australia, 76 percent of women under 30 say they've experienced online harassment, for instance. This case represents a rare instance of the law stepping in to help prevent such abuse.

"This result demonstrates that there is a precedent in Australian law that says this behaviour is unacceptable. It means that harassing women online is not only legally reprehensible, but socially and morally as well," said Brierley Newton, who went on to found campaign group Sexual Violence Won't Be Silenced.

Alchin is due to be sentenced in July 2016.