Friends fall out over ‘fake’ Facebook entry

By James Brewster, July 3, 2008
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A man whose personal details were “laid bare” for all to see in fake entries on the Facebook social-networking website has launched an unprecedented High Court damages action.

Mathew Firsht, managing director of Applause Store Productions Ltd, is suing an old schoolfriend for libel and misuse of private information.

He claims that freelance cameraman Grant Raphael created false personal and group profiles, called “Has Mathew Firsht lied to you?”.

He is said to have used a computer at the flat where Mr Raphael was living  in Hampstead, North-West London, in June last year.

Mr Raphael, who denies liability, says “strangers” who attended an impromptu party there that day sneaked off to a spare bedroom and created the profiles on his PC.

The profiles were on the site for 16 days until Mr Firsht’s brother spotted them and they were taken down by Facebook.

Mr Firsht’s counsel, Lorna Skinner, told Deputy Judge Richard Parkes QC, in London, that the private information concerned his whereabouts, activities, birthday and relationship status, and falsely indicated his sexual orientation and political views.

It said that he was “Looking for: whatever I can get” in terms of relationships and was signed up to other groups, including “Gay in the Wood...Borehamwood” and “Gay Jews in London”.

He also alleges he was also defamed by claims 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.

Ms Skinner said that Mr Raphael’s case was “simply not tenable”.

“The claimant says that the defendant has borne a grudge since they fell out in 2000. The defendant knew all the information in the profiles, and only a very limited number of people would on that date.”

She alleged that Mr Raphael, a “self-confessed Facebook enthusiast”, discovered that Mr Firsht did not have an entry and decided to create a false one with the aim of causing him anxiety and embarrassment.

Mr Firsht, whose company finds audiences for TV and radio shows and provides warm-up services for live audiences, including the evictions on Big Brother, was caused most distress by the misuse of private information, said counsel.

“He values his privacy highly and it was the gross invasion of his privacy, namely having his personal details, including false details concerning his sexuality, laid bare for all to see on Facebook that caused him the most distress.”

The hearing, which is due to last three days, continues. 

 

    Last updated: 8:23am, July 4 2008