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Would Expanding Service of Process on Facebook Bring Positive Change?

Facebook is a leading force in our society, and there is no denying the power it holds over the way we communicate with others. In fact, Facebook has become so prevalent that a number of courts have approved Facebook as an alternative method of process of service when all other traditional means fail. Is it possible that Facebook could really improve and support efforts made by process servers, or would it just lead to trouble?

Why Use Facebook?

When people are determined to avoid receiving legal papers that they know hold bad news, they might stop answering the door, avoid talking to strangers in public, and fly under the radar as much as possible. However, these same people often maintain their social media profiles for all to see. With pictures, videos, location checkpoints, job information, and status updates, it isn’t difficult to prove the legitimacy of a person’s Facebook for legal purposes. In the right situations, Facebook could offer the best chances of communicating with somebody who doesn’t want to be found.

Who Has Already Used Facebook for Service?

A number of courts have approved the use of Facebook, including the Southern District of New York, which approved effective service by email and Facebook on defendants in India because they were “reasonably calculated to provide defendants with notice of future filings in this case.” The court emphasized that Facebook was useful as a supplemental means of service, not as the sole means of service.

The Eastern District of Virginia also approved the same type of service to a defendant located in Turkey. The court explained, “The court finds the service of process through…two email and two social networking accounts ostensibly belonging to the defendant, comports with due process because it is reasonably calculated under the circumstances to provide defendant notice of this suit. Collectively, these four methods are highly likely to provide defendant notice of this litigation.”

A New York Supreme Court Case in 2015 even became the first court to allow service of process only through Facebook in the case of a divorce. According to that court, “In this age of technological enlightenment, what is for the moment unorthodox and unusual stands a good chance of sooner or later being accepted and standard.”