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Bullies who use social networking sites to target victims were warned yesterday that they may face court action after a businessman won £22,000 compensation for libel and misuse of private information.

 

Mathew Firsht’s real name and date of birth were used maliciously to create a fake Facebook profile that incorrectly stated that he had signed up to gay networking groups.

 

In a landmark ruling the High Court yesterday found that Grant Raphael, an estranged friend of Mr Firsht, had created the fake profile. The case is the first involving false information posted on a social net­working site to go to trial in Britain.

 

Mr Raphael’s defence, that the pro­file had been compiled by party gate­crashers at his flat, was described by the court as “built on lies”. Lawyers said that the ruling would send a warn­ing to a growing number of people who are using social networking sites to attack individuals or businesses.

 

Mr Firsht, 38, managing director of Applause Store Productions, discov­ered the fake entries last July. The information concerned his where­abouts, activities, birthday and relationship status and falsely indicated his sexual orientation and political views. There was also a company pro­file called “Has Mathew Firsht lied to you?” which suggested that he and his company were not to be trusted finan­cially, the court was told.

 

Mr Firsht was awarded £15,000 for libel and £2,000 for breach of privacy. Mr Firsht’s company, which finds audi­ences for TV and radio shows includ­ing Big Brother, The X Factor and Top Gear, was awarded £5,000 for libel.

 

The Times 26.07.08