Social media is making its way into the legal world and changing the way we define due process. A new hot-button debate is whether social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn can be used as a means of service of process. Already approved by other Western nations, legal service through social media could soon become common practice in American courts.
Surprisingly, America is slower to accept technology-based means of service than other Western nations. South Africa, Australia, Canada, and the UK have already accepted one form of social media or another for legal service. Based on a recent Staten Island ruling, the U.S. seems to be following suit. In September 2014, a magistrate ruled that Noel Biscocho could serve his ex-wife legal notice via Facebook after his attempts with other traditional methods had failed. This was surprising considering just last year a federal magistrate from Kansas denied Facebook as a means of service in a copyright infringement case. Magistrate James O’Hara ruled there was no way to prove a Facebook message was likely to reach the defendant. However, O’Hara conceded that social media channels may be widely accepted service methods in the near future.
Traditional methods of service are preferred because they ensure transparency and protect the rights of the defendant. A primary concern of using social media channels as in legal service of process is the inherent danger of manipulation. The burden of proof will always remain with the plaintiff, but this decision could blur the lines of due process, making it easy to take advantage of the system. But when traditional methods fail, the availability of social media makes it an option worthy of consideration.
The question at hand is how to make social media service of process verifiable. A plaintiff must be able to verify that the defendant is currently active on the social media platform and that personal information on the account, such as names and birth dates, is consistent with other legal documentation. As noted by O’Hara in the Kansas case, if the social account is not authenticated, another means of service must be taken. Also, most judges seem to agree that all other reasonable attempts must be exhausted before turning to social media. And, as in most legal proceedings, the circumstances should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Contact Direct Legal Support, Inc. for your Los Angeles process service needs. Call 213-483-4900 to speak with one of our registered process servers.