Facebook fraudster ordered to pay his victim £22,000

By James Brewster, August 1, 2008
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A businessman whose personal details were "laid bare" in fake entries on the Facebook social networking website has been awarded £22,000 in damages against the former friend who created the profile.

Mathew Firsht, managing director of Applause Store Productions, sued his old schoolfriend, freelance cameraman Grant Raphael, for libel and misuse of private information.

A judge at the High Court in London ruled that Mr Raphael's defence - that the entry was created on his computer by party gate-crashers at his flat - was "built on lies".

Deputy Judge Richard Parkes QC awarded Mr Firsht £15,000 for libel and £2,000 for breach of privacy.
His company, which finds audiences for TV and radio shows and provides warm-up services for live audiences, including the evictions on Big Brother, was awarded £5,000 for libel.

Mr Firsht accused Mr Raphael of creating a false personal profile and a company profile called "Has Mathew Firsht lied to you?" from a computer at the flat where Mr Raphael was living in Hampstead, North West London. But Mr Raphael claimed that "strangers" who attended an impromptu party at the address, had sneaked off to a spare bedroom and created the profiles on his PC.

Mr Firsht complained about allegations that he owed substantial sums of money which he had repeatedly avoided paying by lying, and that he and his company were not to be trusted in the financial conduct of their business and represented a serious credit risk.

He accused Mr Raphael of bearing a grudge against him since they fell out in 2000 and of creating a false Facebook entry with the aim of causing him anxiety and embarrassment.

The judge described as "utterly far-fetched" Mr Raphael's claim that a random stranger visiting his flat for the first time used his computer for more than an hour, without being observed, to create a false and hurtful profile containing information that few people apart from Mr Raphael could have known.

Judge Parkes said Mr Firsht was shocked and upset by the gross invasion of his privacy. The damage he suffered was made worse by being compelled to endure an expensive and time-consuming court process to achieve vindication in the face of Mr Raphael's lies.

Speaking after the case, Mr Firsht said: "It was a very stressful, costly and long process and I'm glad it is over. It was always at the back of my mind that I had to go to court. I just want to put it behind me and get on with my life.

"The law is so new, it is a complicated minefield, but people can get some comfort knowing they can go to the courts and they will take cases like this seriously. I have been vindicated - and I have proved Grant Raphael lied.

"Now I will move on. I feel comforted that I won, and hopefully I can help other people to get some justice if they have rubbish written about them online."

Last updated: 12:42pm, July 31 2008