British man wins Facebook libel case


A British businessman won a libel case and £22,000 in damages at London's High Court today after false claims about him were posted on the hugely popular social networking website Facebook.

In a test case, Matthew Firsht sued a former schoolfriend over a false personal profile on the site that included private information about him and untrue allegations about his sexual orientation.

Mr Firsht said freelance cameraman Grant Raphael had put up the information on Facebook, which has about 90 million members worldwide, under the heading "Has Mathew Firsht lied to you?".

The Facebook entry alleged that Mr Firsht was signed up to other groups, including "Gay in the Wood...Borehamwood" and "Gay Jews in London".

The profiles remained on the site for 16 days until they were spotted by Mr Firsht's brother and removed.

Mr Raphael had claimed that the profile was created on a computer at his home without his knowledge by someone who had attended a private party there.

But that was dismissed by Deputy Judge Richard Parkes who awarded Mr Firsht £15,000 and his television company Applause Store Productions £5,000 in libel damages.

Mr Firsht was also awarded £2,000 for breach of his privacy.

In a hearing earlier this month, Mr Firsht's lawyer Lorna Skinner said "Facebook enthusiast" Mr Raphael had borne a grudge since the two men fell out in 2000.

She said he had created the false entry to cause Mr Firsht anxiety and embarrassment.