Your (Facebook) Friends Are Irrelevant

What does it mean to have a lot of Facebook friends?  According to one federal judge, not much.

In In re Air Crash Near Clarence Ctr., WDNY 09-md-2085 (Nov. 18, 2013), which arose from the February 12, 2009 crash of Flight 3407, defendant sought production of the Facebook “friend list” of Kevin Guo. Kevin, whose father died in the crash, suffers from Asperger’s Disorder.

Defendant argued that production of Kevin’s “friend list” was “relevant to assessing Kevin’s Asperger’s Disorder, particularly his ability to socialize and communicate with others.”

The court disagreed, reasoning:

Given the ease with which “friends” can be collected on Facebook—indeed, one can be “friends” with people known to them, with strangers, with celebrities, with animals, and even with inanimate objects—Colgan’s argument that Kevin’s “friend list” is relevant to assessing his ability to socialize and communicate is unpersuasive. There seems little likelihood of a correlation between the number of one’s virtual Facebook friends and one’s ability to socialize and communicate in the real world. To the extent Kevin’s Facebook presence contributes to an assessment of his Asperger’s Disorder, Plaintiff’s Facebook production thus far, which includes every post, picture, and message, is adequate. Kevin’s “friend list” adds nothing meaningful and Plaintiff is therefore not required to produce it. (Emphasis added.)

This is particularly telling, since the standard for discovery of information in litigation is significantly lower than the standard for its admissibility at trial.

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