Fake Facebook profile author fined £22,000

Man who set up fake Facebook profile defaming former school friend ordered to pay damages.

A social networker who set up a fake Facebook profile and posted false information has been fined £22,000.

Mathew Firscht, managing director at Applause Store Productions, which finds audiences for TV shows such as Top Gear and the Big Brother evictions, sued former school friend Grant Raphael for libel and misuse of private information after he created a Facebook profile for Firsht containing fake information regarding his sexual and political preferences.

He also set up a further page relating to Applause Store Productions, entitled 'Has Mathew Firscht lied to you?'. The profiles were on Facebook for 16 days until they were taken down.

Raphael claimed the pages had been set up by gatecrashers at a party he had held, but judge Richard Parkes QC said the claims were "utterly far-fetched" and "built on lies." He ordered Raphel to pay Firscht £15,000 in damages and £2,000 for breach of privacy, as well as a further £5,000 to Firscht's company for libel.

"The significance of this case is that it shows that what you post is not harmless, but has consequences," said media lawyer, Jo Sanders, of Harbottle & Lewis.

"Sat at home or school or in the office, it's easy to think of social networking sites as harmless fun, that it's like chatting with friends, and that things posted there are either a joke or just a mischievous way of causing embarrassment. This ruling puts an end to that."

"The golden rule should be to only put up information or images you are happy for everyone to see and are happy to put your name to," she added.

Facebook said: "Fake profiles are an abuse of our terms of use and they will be removed. When fake profiles are reported we thoroughly investigate and remove profiles found to be in violations of our terms of use -- just as we did in the case of Mathew Firscht."

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Carrie-Ann Skinner

Techworld

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