Fed. Rule Civ. Pro. 4(f)(3) authorizes service through Facebook?

Last week, in a case where the FTC accused an Indian call center of a scam that tricked U.S. citizens into paying to fix phony computer problems, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer ruled that U.S. government lawyers representing the FTC can serve legal documents on a group of defendants in India through the social networking site Facebook. Because, as Judge Engelmayer acknowledged, the defendants may not receive legal notice through Facebook, the Court only permitted the use of Facebook as a backstop to email service. Interestingly, The Hague Service Convention, which governs serving lawsuits in foreign jurisdictions, does not list email or Facebook as a means of alternative process. Judge Engelmayer stated that courts are allowed to authorize alternative means of service not listed in the treaty and stressed that courts must remain open to new technologies “rather than dismissing them out of hand.”

Samuel Issacharoff, a professor at New York University School of Law, said while this may be a first for Facebook, the development is not all that surprising in light of the fact that U.S. courts have moved past certified mail service to allowing email service. For Professor Issacharoff, Facebook is only “a small further step” in technology making service meaningful and cost-effective.

How do you think the various Facebook privacy settings might affect the legality of such service? How might the court verify whether defendant received service if defendant’s Facebook account is private?

Click Here and Here to read more. Click Here for Judge Engelmayer’s opinion.

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