Legal Service of Process via Social Media
Social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter may soon become another tool for the long arm of the law. As people become more mobile and start to give up traditional worldly tethers such as phone land lines, mail boxes, and address listings in phone books, lawyers are looking for new ways to reach out and touch someone with legal papers.
Courts around the world (Canada, Australia, U.K., New Zealand) are starting to allow virtual service of process and the U.S. courts are not far behind! However, privacy concerns in countries such as Germany and France have prevented adoption of using social media to give notice of court proceedings.
Giving legal notice acceptable to the courts via social media is complicated by legal issues such as how often a user checks his or her account, lawyers "friending" parties to a lawsuit, privacy, and where and how do you post legal notice. All these issues need to be carefully sorted out in order to comply with procedural due process.
Will social media sites cooperate with the courts and provide a legal notice page upon log on? Many social media sites already provide law enforcement with information and content about their subcribers and an easy way for downloading content; so why not go one step further and provide an "easy button" for service of process.
Don't be surprised if the next time you log onto Facebook, you are greeted by a friendly message from the court "You Are Being Served."
Editor's note: See also, "The Case for Providing Electronic Notice in Child Welfare Proceedings," by Randall Harris.