Foreign courts, including those of Australia, New Zealand and even now the British High Court have accepted service of process through Facebook when other methods fail. The ABA journal reports that in Marriage of Jessica Mpafe v. Clarence Ndjounwou Mpafe, a Minnesota state court accepted that service of divorce papers through Facebook would be a cost-effective way to reach a person outside the country.
Our federal courts haven’t gone there yet, but may not be far behind. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4(f)(2) and 4(f)(3) allow an individual located in a foreign country to be served, in the absence of internationally agreed means, “by a method that is reasonably calculated to give notice … as prescribed by the foreign country’s law for service” or “by other means not prohibited by international agreement, as the court orders.” This language allows room for the service of process via social networking websites on individuals who are outside of the US, especially in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain where their courts have allowed this, if a reasonable case can be made.
Jeffrey N. Rosenthal has posted an informative blog looking at the progression of notice in our legal system. As courts move forward using Twitter, Facebook or other social networks for notice or service care must be taken to safeguard privacy and to avoid violating individual’s rights.