Businessman wins £22,000 in landmark Facebook libel trial

A businessman whose friend created a fake Facebook profile using his name has won his libel and misuse of private information case at the High Court today and been awarded £22,000.

Mathew Firsht, who runs Applause Store Productions, which finds audiences for TV shows, sued a former schoolfriend and freelance camerman Grant Raphael for putting the information on the site under the heading ‘Has Mathew Firsht lied to you?”

In what is thought to be the first UK libel case involving the social networking site, Deputy Judge Richard Parkes QC awarded Firsht £15,000 in libel damages and the company £5,000. Firsht also got £2,000 in respect of breach of his privacy.

In making the awards the judge said that while the libel was ‘not at the top end of the scale”, the damage to Firsht’s reputation was serious.

He said: ‘It is serious enough to say of a successful businessman that he owes substantial sums of money which he has repeatedly avoided paying by lying and making implausible excuses, so that he is not to be trusted in the financial conduct of his business and represents a serious credit risk.”

Raphael had claimed that the profile was created on at a computer at his home unbeknown to him by someone who had attended a private party there.

The Facebook profile were finally spotted by Firsht’s brother and removed after it had been on the site for 16 days.

They had included private information about Firsht including false allegations about his sexual orientation and political views.

The profile alleged that Firsht was looking for ‘whatever he could get’in terms of relationships and was signed up to other groups, including ‘Gay in the Wood…Borehamwood and Gay Jews in London”.

During the hearing earlier this month, Firsht’s counsel Lorna Skinner, told the judge that Raphael and Firsh had fallen out in 2000 and that Raphael had born a grudge since then. She said that Raphael had created the false entry to cause Firsht anxiety and embarrassment.

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