Unprecedented legal challenge could transform internet

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A RETIRED schoolteacher who made history by successfully suing a former pupil for libel is now planning a legal action against website Friends Reunited in a challenge which threatens a major shake-up of the internet industry.

Jim Murray, 68, from Lincolnshire, sued Jonathan Spencer in February for "destroying his professional character" after the ex-pupil posted false allegations about him on the site, which aims to put old schoolfriends in touch.

Mr Spencer had falsely claimed that Mr Murray, who retired from Ridgeway School in Scawsby, South Yorkshire, in 1983, after an unblemished career, had been sacked for making rude comments about female pupils. Mr Murray - who dismissed his award of 1250 following the action as "peanuts" - now plans to sue the founder of the website as well as the internet service provider.

He said: "I am pursuing a case against Friends Reunited not just because I think they are accountable for the slur against my name but also because I am aware that many other people have suffered the upset of reading something completely untrue about themselves on the site."

Martin Frost, from Kelso, in the Borders, is one of two semi-professional litigants representing Mr Murray.

He said: "Winning such a case could also mean that website companies and service providers are much more liable over what they publish on the internet, and that could clean up the internet.’’

Mr Murray’s success against Mr Spencer is the first time in the UK anyone has won damages for defamation from the author of comments posted on the internet. No-one from Friends Reunited was available last night.