Businessman wins Facebook libel case

LONDON (Reuters) - A businessman won a libel case and 22,000 pounds in damages at the High Court on Thursday after false claims about him were posted on the hugely popular social networking Web site Facebook.

A Facebook profile is seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/Handout

In a test case, Mathew 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.

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 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 Firsht’s brother and removed.

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 Firsht 15,000 pounds and his television company Applause Store Productions 5,000 pounds in libel damages.

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

In a hearing earlier this month Firsht’s lawyer Lorna Skinner said “Facebook enthusiast” 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.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Tim Castle