Boxer Amir Khan and promoter Frank Warren have threatened to sue Facebook for libel over allegedly "defamatory and racist" content on the social networking site.
The WBA light welterweight champion and Warren are angered that their names and images have been used in unofficial groups on the site that are full of racist abuse. Leeds-based solicitor Lupton Fawcett has been instructed to write a complaint to Facebook but have so far received only a "standard acknowledgment".
In a statement, Stephen Taylor Heath of Lupton Fawcett said: "Facebook allows users to create pages on the site with information and pictures on themselves, and to communicate with friends and contacts. Unfortunately, Amir and Frank are an example of well-known people who have become the victim of posters creating pages on the site using their name and image to draw attention to their derogatory remarks.
"At the moment the owners of Facebook do not seem to be taking the problems seriously. We have written to them outlining our concerns but all we received was a standard acknowledgment. We are still awaiting a response from their legal department."
A quick search of Facebook on Friday reveals well over 100 groups dedicated to Amir Khan formed by a mixture of fans and detractors ("We hate Amir Khan" is typical of the latter, with 38 hits on the search term "amir khan + hate"). Fan groups typically have hundreds of members while detractor groups are made up of less than 50.
Mixed in with expressions of admiration or love are insults about Khan's supposed arrogance and (occasionally well-reasoned) critiques of his boxing. Most of the racist remarks appear to have cropped up in groups celebrating Khan's knock-out at the hands of Colombian boxer Breidis Prescott in September 2008, but are by no means restricted to those groups.
Frank Warren-themed groups are smaller in number, with a common thread among the detractors involving criticising Warren's physical appearance (eg "frank warren has floppy earlobes and looks like a fuckin rabbit" is one of the more inventive titles).
Policing all that is no easy matter.
Facebook issued a statement saying there was "no place" for derogatory content and pledging to remove any such content reported to it.
Lupton Fawcett is hoping to act for other sports stars and celebrities with similar concerns over content on social networking sites, the Manchester Evening News reports. ®