Surely at least a few of us have been “served.” Maybe you get a big uniformed man casting a shadow that covers your entire doorway. You open the door and this man, without much smiling or greetings, tells you, “I’m from the Sheriff’s Department, and I’m here to serve you papers for a court appearance. Have a nice day. Yep, I know. He doesn’t really mean “have a nice day.” But just imagine getting a Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) posting in your News Feed that serves you. Seems a little less intimidating, right? And according to a U.S. judge, perfectly appropriate as an avenue to make contact with a defendant.
In what is considered a novel legal concept, a federal judge in New York offered an opinion that the Federal Trade Commission can serve documents to some defendants in India by both e-mail and by Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), which he claims is within the rules of the Hague Service Convention, which does not specifically allow service on foreign defendants by e-mail or social networks.
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer wrote, “The Court acknowledges that service by Facebook is a relatively novel concept, and that it is conceivable that defendants will not in fact receive notice by this means. But, as noted, the proposed service by Facebook is intended not as the sole method of service, but instead to backstop the service upon each defendant at his, or its, known email address. And history teaches that, as technology advances and modes of communication progress, courts must be open to considering requests to authorize service via technological means of then-recent vintage, rather than dismissing them out of hand as novel.”
Engelmayer stated that the Federal Trade Commission can use Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) as a backstop to e-mail citing a federal rule that allows a court to serve foreign defendants by whatever means are available as long as it does violate any international treaty and is consistent with the constitutional right to due process. This particular case involves some defendants in India, which ran websites that tricked users into paying money to fix bogus computer problems.
What do you thnk? Can Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) be an effective way to serve defendants? Do you see any concerns or possible unintended consequences to using social media? We’d like your thoughts in the comments section below.
DISCLOSURE: I own no positions in any stock mentioned.
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