Australian Tribunal Disagrees with US Court - Facebook Friends are Real

Australian Tribunal Disagrees with US Court - Facebook Friends are Real

posted Saturday Sep 26, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Many years ago, a US judge deemed that Facebook "friends" were not real friends, and could not be admitted in court. That ruling made sense, especially for the time, when friends would have included celebrities and the like, with Facebook having not implemented personality Pages quite the way they exist today. Either way, even today, many of us can list off people in our Facebook "friends" list that we do not actually know. Personally, I have dozens, and that's okay.

An Australian Tribunal decided this week that the service has changed enough in the past few years, and made a very different ruling. In fact, it turns out that the act of "unfriending" someone on the social network can be considered humiliation. This ruling comes in a case between Rachael Roberts, an employee of a real estate agency in Tasmania. She claims that she was "belittled and humiliated" by sales administrator Lisa Bird and her husband James.

The listed offenses were horrible, including not being able to change the AC in the office and being referred to as "a naughty little schoolgirl running to the teacher." Clearly this was a serious case of harassment that deserved the government's attention, but was overshadowed by being unfriended on Facebook. That was enough to push it over the edge of acceptable. The commission said,

This action by Mrs. Bird evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behavior.

Nicole Wells, a member of the commission, added,

I am of the view that Mrs. Bird took the first opportunity to draw a line under the relationship with Ms, Roberts on 29 January 2015, when she removed her as a friend on Facebook as she did not like Ms. Roberts and would prefer not to have to deal with her. I am satisfied that the evidence of Ms. Roberts, as to the incident on 29 January 2015, is to be preferred and that the allegation of unreasonable behavior by Mrs. Bird in Allegation 17 is made out.

Okay, let's try and sum this up. A couple works with someone they truly do not like. In an attempt to not have to infect their personal lives with this person, they removed her on Facebook, keeping them from having to see her posts, likely about the barista at the coffee shop humiliating her by spelling her name Rachel. This act, which would be similar, I suppose, to not answering a phone call from a co-worker in your personal time, was considered workplace bullying.

In the end, I suppose the only solution is to not add your co-workers on Facebook. In Australia.

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