Facebook Libel and Privacy Breach

July 28, 2008

Mathew Firsht and Applause Store, the company with which he was associated, were successful in an action alleging libel and misuse of private information. The judgment in Applause Store Productions Ltd and Firsht v Grant Raphael [2008] EWHC 1781 (QB) is now available on BAILII and can be accessed here.

The case has been widely reported in the mainstream press. The basic facts were that a Facebook profile was created in the name of Mathew Firsht in June 2007. It contained material which was admittedly private information. A Facebook group was set up shortly thereafter, linked to the profile by hyperlink, which was called ‘Has Mathew Firsht lied to you?’. It contained material which was admittedly defamatory of Mr Firsht and of Applause Store. Neither the profile nor the group was set up by Mathew Firsht. Both were set up using a computer with Grant Raphael’s IP address, ie using a computer at the flat where he then lived. Despite his denial of responsibility, the judge had little difficulty in finding that Grant Raphael was responsible for putting up the false profile and for creating the group. That denial and the resolution and undermining of it dominate the case and the judgment, which means that there is little law in it. It does however serve as a useful guide on quantum and certain of the evidential issues (and the occasionally shocking vagueness of the technological evidence) are of interest.

For coverage of related issues, read Ashley Hurst’s article on libel and privacy on the Internet here.