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Court Rules Facebook ‘Friends’ Aren’t Real Friends

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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A federal appeals judge ruled Wednesday that Facebook “friends” do not classify as real friends in the eyes of the law.

The decision is in response to a legal question over whether a Miami judge should recuse herself from a case because she was Facebook “friends” with one of the involved attorneys, the Miami Herald reports.

Third District Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Logue composed a 10-page opinion behind the unanimous ruling.

“Electronic social media is evolving at an exponential rate. Acceptance as a Facebook ‘friend’ may well once have given the impression of close friendship and affiliation,” Logue wrote. “Currently, however, the degree of intimacy among Facebook ‘friends’ varies greatly. The designation of a person as a ‘friend’ on Facebook does not differentiate between a close friend and a distant acquaintance.” (RELATED: Facebook, Social Media Activity Could Lead To Longer Life, According To New Study)

Logue cites evidence that “friends” are often chosen through data-mining technology “rather than personal interactions.” He noted that Facebook will often use contact lists from smartphones, computers, and emails, as well as the names found in shared photographs or networks, to suggest possible “friends.”

The appeals court in Palm Beach, however, ruled the opposite several years ago, showing that the legal debate over true friendship when it comes to social media will likely continue. (RELATED: Study: Love Facebook? You’re Probably Depressed And Lonely)

The rise of technology, specifically the advent of social media, is causing new legal debates.

A German court at the end of May ruled that parents of a deceased teenager do not have the right to access her Facebook account. The mother wanted to gain access to her daughter’s profile to see if there were any signs of suicidal sentiments. A Facebook representative told The Daily Caller News Foundation at the time that it offered the grieving parents a settlement in which it would redact all of the personally identifiable information (like names) from the communications, but the parents chose to decline.

The ruling overturned a lower courts decision from two years ago, which Facebook originally appealed.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision today,” a Facebook representative told TheDCNF at the time. “We empathize with the family and are respectful of their wish. We are committed to trying to find solution that helps the family while protecting the privacy of others who might be affected.”

Facebook did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment by time of publication.

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