A London businessman has won a test libel case in the High Court after a former friend created a false Facebook profile that both implied he was gay and made allegations against his business.
Mathew Firsht was awarded £22,000 in damages in the case against Grant Raphael.
Mr Raphael created a fake profile properting that Mr Firsht was “Looking for: Anything I can get” in terms of relationships.
The fake profile then joined a number of gay groups on Facebook including “Gay in the Wood…Borehamwood” and “Gay Jews in London”.
He also created a Facebook group called “Has Mathew Firsht lied to you?” making allegations that Mr Frisht lies in order to avoid paying its debts.
Both men work in television and fell out in a business dispute but Mr Firsht’s business became successful while Mr Raphael’s went into voluntary liquidation.
Deputy Judge Richard Parkes QC said that Mr Raphael’s claim that a random stranger used his computer for an hour while in his flat created the profile as “utterly far-fetched” adding that he was “glib and loquacious, always prepared, it seemed to me, to talk his way out of a difficulty, with no apparent insight into the implausibility of some of his answers.”
Mr Firsht had to go through a number of legal loopholes before being able to find out who created the false profile, including a United States court order for Facebook to disclose information relating to the profile.
Mr Firsht was awarded £15,000 in damages and £2,000 for a breach of his privacy. His television company Applause Store Productions was awarded £5,000 for false allegations made against it.
Speaking to More4 News, Mr Firsht said the ruling “will create shock waves with anyone who has the intent of writing a defamatory material” online.
“It should help people realise that if there is a possibility that someone has written something about you there is a light … the courts will take you seriously.”
You can see his interview with More4 News anchor Kylie Morris below.