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Is $40000 fair punishment for setting up a fake Facebook profile?
July 29, 2008 12:02 AM   Subscribe

£17,000 damages for victim of fake Facebook profile. Matthew Firsht found a fake facebook profile created in his name, and he has successfully sued the person who did it. Amol Rajan knows exactly what having your facebook online ID 'stolen' feels like, as do many others. Are your social networking friends always who they say they are?
posted by dabitch (31 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
woah. so much for freedom of speech. this is craziness. people expect everything on the internet to truthfully represent what it purports to represent. that's silly and its wrong.
posted by Parallax.Error at 12:29 AM on July 29, 2008


How is this freedom of speech? The guy who didn't wasn't putting forward an idea or publicising his opinions, he was falsely representing someone else by creating a fake identity for them. It'd be libel if it was in a newspaper, why not on the internet?
posted by twirlypen at 12:44 AM on July 29, 2008


whoops. 'didn't' = 'did it'
posted by twirlypen at 12:46 AM on July 29, 2008


P. Error, freedom of speech does not extend to willfully spreading false information with malicious intent, or assuming the identity of another person. Just because it is done on the internet does not mean relevent laws are waived.
posted by longsleeves at 12:46 AM on July 29, 2008


facebook is not a legally binding document. have you ever used facebook? so much junk gets spewed around on social networking sites i assume everything is false.
posted by Parallax.Error at 12:48 AM on July 29, 2008


This just in: verdict overturned on appeal. Deputy judge Richard Parkes QC was quoted as saying "well, Parallax.Error thinks it's all a load of shite... that's all we needed to hear, really."
posted by basicchannel at 1:01 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think everybody understands that people sometimes lie about themselves on social networking sites. That is QUITE OBVIOUSLY not what the post is about.
posted by longsleeves at 1:16 AM on July 29, 2008


Firsht!
posted by dhammond at 1:24 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lots of quasi-famous people in Sweden have had facebook accounts in their name created by other people - often with malicious intent - I wonder if this will open up for many more suits as some of those profiles have never been removed by facebook despite many requests. At one point even the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, had a false profile.
posted by dabitch at 1:27 AM on July 29, 2008


This just in: verdict overturned on appeal. Deputy judge Richard Parkes QC was quoted as saying "well, Parallax.Error thinks it's all a load of shite... that's all we needed to hear, really."
hah, thank god.

I'm just concerned that if government has the authority to judge people for what they do on facebook doesn't government have the authority to judge us for what we say on metafilter, write in blogs, search for on google, watch on youtube, and maybe even who we chat with?

Its just a matter of centralized authority and I do not want governmental bodies stepping down this path. The nature of governments is to gobble up authority. The internet and the real world are different places. The 'net is such an amazing place because of its unique rules and social mores. If we allow governments, a real world actor, to interfere with the internet it will be like mixing oil and water. Governments only understand real world rules and mores.

These things should not be decided by governments. There are other actors involved who can censure bad behavior. Why couldn't facebook issue an official apology and ban the users who were causing the problems? Those of us who enjoy the internet need to make sure we are the ones governing it instead of abdicating responsibility and authority to others. Bad behavior needs to be punished but not by governments.
posted by Parallax.Error at 1:39 AM on July 29, 2008


damn, i wish i could sue all the stupid sites around the web that either publish my writing and fill it with google ads or add me to weird social networks and people listing sites without me even knowing about it (I'm lookng at YOU XOOM)

... but my lawyer said it aint worth his fees ;p
posted by infini at 1:48 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


What the hell are you talking about, Parallax.Error? This is not censorship at all. This has nothing to do with "what we say on metafilter, write in blogs, search for on google, watch on youtube".

The government isn't punishing someone for setting up a fake account. Someone sued them in civil court for libel. Libel is libel no matter what the medium.

Why would the internet be except from those laws? Should identify theft be legal then? Phising scams? Should I be allowed to make false and defamatory claims about you on the internet?
posted by spaltavian at 1:53 AM on July 29, 2008


Though I do think the damages awarded were excessive.
posted by spaltavian at 1:56 AM on July 29, 2008


Fake Craigslist item: Moving to Ecuador, giving away all my furniture, electronics, clothes. Help yourself while I'm at work tomorrow. -- Parallax.Error
posted by longsleeves at 2:07 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


The government isn't doing anything to anyone. The courts are deciding on a case between two individuals based on the general existing law, much of which dates from before the Internet even existed.
posted by athenian at 3:00 AM on July 29, 2008


I know a guy who created a fake profile for "postmodernism" just so that he could then link to it in his own profile so that it says "Relationship Status: It's Complicated with postmodernism."

I wonder if postmodernism is going to sue.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:42 AM on July 29, 2008


Please let me know where I can get $40000 in exchange for £17000?
Also I love the man who set up the fake page's excuse - some people did it when they were round at mine for party! bit like, the dog ate my homework miss
posted by mossiman at 3:47 AM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


You're right, it's more like 33,825.63 USD today I was using the sum presented in an US paper without double checking.
posted by dabitch at 3:51 AM on July 29, 2008


Please let me know where I can get $40000 in exchange for £17000?

Where, I dunno. But given this news, when may be sometime in the last few months of the Bush Presidency.
posted by rhymer at 4:03 AM on July 29, 2008


Someone sued them in civil court for libel. Libel is libel no matter what the medium.

Actually libel is different in the UK,at least legally. Much harder to defend against.
posted by smackfu at 5:26 AM on July 29, 2008


For one thing, this is not a case of a fake profile being set up for a public figure—in which case, I'd imagine the plaintiff would have to clear a higher bar (depending on jurisdiction), and the public would be more skeptical. I mean, really, who's going to look at Carl Gustaf's facebook profile and think that's really him?

For another, this fake profile was set up by someone who knew the plaintiff and clearly had it in for him. The profile was inviting casual gay sex.

Lorna Skinner, Firsht's lawyer, told a hearing last month that the information included his whereabouts, activities, birthday and relationship status and falsely indicated his political views.

Parallax.Error—would you be OK with that happening to you? Would it not even occur to you to seek redress through the courts?
posted by adamrice at 5:53 AM on July 29, 2008


Please let me know where I can get $40000 in exchange for £17000?

You can get about $35k in Australia. You can then use that to hop across the creek to New Zealand, where it's worth $45k.
posted by twirlypen at 6:13 AM on July 29, 2008


From the second link:

The first I knew about it was a phone call. My girlfriend admonished me for succumbing to the temptations of Facebook, a website whose poisoned fruits I had previously said I found unappealing. I stood accused of two crimes: a lack of willpower and a failure to confess.

I've never used facebook, but I've never thought of it as my resisting its poison fruits through strength of willpower. What is this guy talking about? Is there something I should know about facebook?
posted by squarehead at 6:20 AM on July 29, 2008


Please let me know where I can get $40000 in exchange for £17000?

You can get about $35k in Australia. You can then use that to hop across the creek to New Zealand, where it's worth $45k.


... or 630,275,215,526,660 Zimbabwean Dollars as per xe.com.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 6:39 AM on July 29, 2008


The lawyers have just gotten started. Napster. Check. YouTube. Check. Facebook. Check. Who's next?
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:53 AM on July 29, 2008


In the case of Napster and Google (by way of owning youtube) the companies are sued. This man sued another man, not facebook.
posted by dabitch at 10:10 AM on July 29, 2008


...but by all means, Chicken Little, keep yer eye on the sky!
posted by basicchannel at 10:56 AM on July 29, 2008


Parallax.Error, every comment that you've made in this thread has been so fundamentally wrongheaded that I am at a loss where to start. So I won't; suffice it to say that you really need to think a little more before committing fingers to keys.

With regard to the link it's interesting that he got £15k for libel but £2k for beach of privacy. The Moseley case finished with a £60k award for breach of privacy. While there's probably more readers of the News of the Screws than people who saw this profile I can conceive of a situation in which some form of 3rd party disclosure order is made against the website for unique page views or the like. Having not actually read the Moseley decision I'm curious about the extent to which this might be decisive.
posted by dmt at 11:06 AM on July 29, 2008


Is it ok if I start calling it The Facebook. As in "I saw it on The Facebook this morning, so it must be true!"
posted by blue_beetle at 2:11 PM on July 29, 2008


Ouch, 40K for a prank? I think having Facebook remove the profile would've been sufficient. This is most definitely not a freedom of speech issue. Whether the defendant or his guests committed the deed, it shows a real lack of character. The Internet is Serious Business.
posted by bloodniece at 4:07 PM on July 29, 2008


I don't like cases like this being taken so seriously if only because it implies that broadcasting, even falsely, that someone is gay is a horrendous crime.
posted by loiseau at 4:49 PM on July 29, 2008


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