Court Rules Facebook Friends are 'Not Real'

John Lister's picture

A Florida court has ruled that "Facebook friends" don't count as real friendships. The decision followed claims that it was not possible for a judge to be unbiased, especially if he was a Facebook friend with an attorney in the same case.

The ruling came from the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld previous rulings from lower courts. Both rejected claims that having a "Facebook friend" relationship between the aforementioned parties may result in not having a fair and impartial trial.

The argument for the judge being potentially biased was based largely on advise given by the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee in 2009. In that statement, it was recommended that both judges and lawyers shouldn't form Facebook friendships if they were involved in the same case.

'Thousands' Of Friends Seems A Stretch

The main reason the courts rejected this argument was one of emphasis: although a friendship could bring into a question a judge's neutrality, the default assumption is that it does not, and therefore needs to be proven otherwise.

The lower court made three interesting arguments which were backed up by the Supreme Court - all of which were based on the fact that a Facebook friendship was even less evidence of potential bias than a traditional personal relationship.

The first was that some Facebook users have "thousands of Facebook friends", which is much more than the number of traditional offline "friends" that people usually have.

Facebook Friends Forgotten

The second was statistics cited in a previous case, which showed that some Facebook users can't actually remember everyone they have listed as a friend. This suggests a looser connection than is usually defined as a friendship offline.

Finally, the court noted that some Facebook users have added somebody as a "friend" on the site in response to an automated suggestion from Facebook's algorithm, rather than as a result of a personal interaction. (Source: qz.com)

Because of these three factors, the court said it's wrong to assume that all Facebook friendships are as close as the "traditional sense" of friend, namely "a person attached to another person by feelings of affection of personal regard." (Source: floridasupremecourt.org)

What's Your Opinion?

Should Facebook friends always be considered friends in the more traditional offline sense? Was the court right to say that an attorney and judge being friends on Facebook doesn't necessarily indicate a close relationship that leads to bias? Is it inevitable that judges and attorneys will often have some form of personal or social relationship anyhow?

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Comments

LouisianaJoe's picture

I would consider them friends if any interaction occurred between them on Facebook. I have many in my friends list that I never see activity for. If the Judge posted something on the attorney's timeline, I would consider them friends.

ehowland's picture

I don't need a court to tell me "Facebook friends" are (mostly) irrelevant... LOL