Internet trolls, as a breed of people, are pretty irritating.
They spend their lives creeping around the web, making mischief and generally peeing people off. But ‘trolling’ can become much, much darker than an irritating, provocative comment on social media. Troll’s steal people’s identities, damage with relentless cyber-bullying and send violent and abusive threats to strangers.
Last year, 25-year-old Zane Alchin stood trial for “threating to rape” 23-year-old Paloma Brierley Newton. But this wasn’t a physical threat… Zane had threatened Paloma repeatedly in the comments on a photo his friend had shared. Chris Hall, shared the below image of a woman – Olivia Melville – after spotting her on Tinder:
Chris – who is evidently not a fan of Drake – took massive offence to her using lyrics from the rapper’s bit in Nicki Minaj’s track, Only: type of girl that will “suck you dry and then eat some lunch with you”, captioning the shot with: “I’m surprised she’d still be hungry for lunch.”
A mutual friend tagged Olivia, which then led to a torrent of abuse on the post. Chris asked her: “Olivia, why don’t u show your parents your tinder profile… I’m sure they’d be impressed.” She replied: “Why would they care… It’s just a song lyric.”
But the abuse continued, so she shared the post on her own Facebook, but Chris was soon tagged and in this modern day “warfare” invited other friends to “get his back.” One of them was Zane Alchin, who reportedly announced in his first comment: “Chris Hall, brother, the Calvary has arrived.”
The comments of this “gallant online knight” would later wound up with the current rape threat counts against him. Wading in for his “bro” he threw a torrent of abuse at Olivia’s friend Paloma that doesn’t even belong in the middle ages:
Shocked by his vile comments, Paloma threatened to go to the police:
And, after continuing to read things like this, she did:
At first the police didn’t take the screenshots seriously, and said it was too hard to prosecute in cases like this. But women who had been shocked by the comments banded together, and formed the Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced group, launching a petition against Zane.
It was only after 16,000 people had signed the petition that the police started to take the case seriously. Under section 474.17 of the Australian Criminal Code the law states that “using a carriage service to harass, menace, or cause offence” is illegal. Facebook was the carriage service, and comments like “kill it before it breeds” next to photos of the young woman was the menacing harassment – meaning Zane had, indeed, broken the law.
Zane Alchin faces court again on March 1, 2016 after originally pleading not guilty to the charges against him. If found guilty, he could face three years in prison, although Paloma believes “community service at a woman’s shelter would be a more effective punishment.”
One in four women have experienced sexual harassment online. One in four women will experience physical domestic violence in their lifetimes. It might seem like a joke at the time, but violently threatening someone online, female or male, is not acceptable. Think before you type.