The February 12, 2018 post Service of Process Through Social Media discussed how courts were increasingly allowing service of process through the Facebook social media platform. Twitter has now joined Facebook as an acceptable means of effecting service on a defendant who cannot be served in a more traditional manner.

Service Process_TLBLast month, the judge presiding over Democratic National Committee v. The Russian Federation, et al., Civil Action No. 18-3501 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 6, 2018), entered an Order granting plaintiff leave to serve defendant WikiLeaks via Twitter. The Order was entered after plaintiff demonstrated through a brief and supporting Declaration that diligent attempts to serve WikiLeaks through “a variety of methods, including emails to an address provided by WikiLeaks on its website, and by contacting counsel who have represented WikiLeaks in other matters” had proved unsuccessful.

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International Service of Process Through Social Media

Just as some courts have allowed service of process through social media when defendants are located within the United States (see TrendingLawBlog.com, Feb. 12, 2018), courts are also increasingly permitting service to be made through social media accounts when a defendant is outside of the country.  Rule 4(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs “serving an Individual in a Foreign Country,” and Rule 4(f)(3) expressly allows courts to order service “by means not prohibited by international agreement.” Several courts have relied on Rule 4(f)(3) to allow service through a social media account under certain circumstances.

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One of the first cases to permit service internationally through a defendant’s social media account is Shinde v. Nithyananda Foundation, 13-00363, 2014 WL 12597121 *7 (C.D. Cal Aug. 25, 2014), a case in which the court ruled that “service through a Facebook account was permissible on a defendant located in India, a signatory to the Hague Convention” and comported with due process.  In Shinde, the court reasoned that because “service by Facebook is . . . outside the scope of Article 10 [of the Hague Convention]” and “India has not objected to service by Facebook, and the Court knows of no international treaty prohibiting such means,” service of process through Facebook was a permissible alternative under Rule 4(f)(3).  Id. at *7.

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Service of Process Through Social Media

Service of process is the procedure by which one party to a lawsuit gives notice of the commencement of a legal action to the party being sued so the court can exercise jurisdiction over that party. New Jersey Court Rule 4:4-4 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(c) set forth the various ways process may be served on a defendant. Traditional manners of service include personal service by a process server, mail service, substituted service or service by publication.

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Recently, courts have permitted litigants to serve process via email, so it is not surprising that litigants are now also seeking to use a defendant’s social media account to serve process after traditional means prove ineffective or impossible. Indeed, one New York court noted “it would appear that the next frontier in the developing law of the service of process over the internet is the use of social media sites as forums through which a summons can be delivered.”  Baidoo v. Blood-Dzraku, 5 N.Y.S.3d 709, 711 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2015).  A New Jersey trial court recently took up the service-by-social media gauntlet and did, in fact, allow a defendant to be served with process via his Facebook account.

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