So, now we know. #Facebook friends aren’t real friends

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 20, 2018

Enormously impressed by Florida highest court. It’s ruled on something people should know, except that sometimes they don’t.

Facebook friends aren’t real friends. Unless they already are, in real life.

The common sense ruling, issued on November 15, was in the context of judge-lawyer relationships. Could a judge hear a case if the lawyer arguing it is his/ her Facebook friend?

Yes, of course, the Florida Supreme Court said. A Facebook friend is a “person digitally connected to another person by virtue of their Facebook ‘friendship’,” wrote the Florida chief justice. Such ‘friendships’ come about based on algorithmic suggestions, not personal interactions. He went on to add that a Facebook friendship “does not objectively signal the existence of the affection and esteem involved in a traditional ‘friendship.’”

So far so good.

The puzzling aspect of this ruling is the court’s determination that even a traditional (non-digital, very real) friendship may not be disqualifying for a judge because of the “indeterminate” nature of friendship.

A real friend, mused the court, “is a person attached to another person by feelings of affection or esteem.”

Obviously, that’s not something an algorithm would have much time for, as of now. What of the human mind, its input-output system of neural computation? If a judge has a real-life ‘friend’ who’s a lawyer, wouldn’t he/she feel an affinity that makes it hard to be truly impartial?