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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Are Facebook Friends Really Your Friends? Court Case May Settle the Question.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 28, 2010 at 9:36 AM

click to enlarge facebookfriends.jpg
So, how 'bout it? Are Facebook friends really your friends? That's a question under debate in the criminal case of an off-duty St. Louis cop involved in a bar brawl in Illinois in 2008.

This morning the Post-Dispatch reports that the ubiquitous Clayton attorney, Albert Watkins, is asking Facebook to turn over records involving several witnesses as well as the Illinois police officers investigating the fight.

Watkins is representing Bryan Pour, a former St. Louis police officer who says he was attacked while leaving the Granite City tavern Mac 'n Mick's Sports Bar & Grill in the early morning hours of November 2008. Pour reached for his revolver in his waistband and the gun discharged, striking a Granite City man.

Moments later, police from nearby Pontoon Beach, Illinois, arrived at the scene and shot another off-duty St. Louis cop who was part of a group of people that had accompanied Pour to wedding earlier that night.

click to enlarge Know all these folks?
  • Know all these folks?
Pour -- who was subsequently fired from the police department -- is now facing felony charges for shooting the Granite City man. Watkins believes that many of the witnesses and the police investigating the shooting may have "Facebook friendships."

"We believe law enforcement had pre-existing and subsequent relationships with material witnesses," Watkins tells the Post-Dispatch. "Our position is that someone charged with a crime has a right to subpoena exculpatory evidence."

Meanwhile, Facebook is opposing the Watkins' subpoena that it hand over the Facebook records of police and witnesses involved in the case.

It's an interesting polemic. Facebook accounts do provide tangible proof that you know -- or are "friends" -- with someone. But are Facebook "friends" really your friends?

Personally speaking, I know that half the people I've "friended" on Facebook I either haven't talked to in ten years or have never met in person. So, does proving that you know someone on Facebook also prove that you've conspired with that person in a criminal investigation?

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