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You Got Served Via Facebook. Now What?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 15, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Remember when Facebook launched the original “poke” feature? Being poked by a “friend” on the social networking site felt weird and slightly dirty. Then, third-party apps took the poke to the next level and let you assault your friends with an assortment of options. You could even “throw a sheep”. Because good friends throw sheep.

Good attorneys — by contrast — use Facebook to effect service of process. Or, at least they try to.

This week, a federal district court in New York ruled in Federal Trade Commission v. PCCare247 Inc that lawyers for the Federal Trade Commission can serve legal documents on a group of defendants in India through Facebook, Reuters reports.

Service of process must be the new sheep toss.

U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer noted in the opinion that service through Facebook was a "relatively novel concept," and the defendants might not receive legal notice through it. In this case, however, the government was also serving the documents through email, so he said Facebook would act as a backstop.

(Sidebar: The idea was on "relatively novel" -- not completely novel -- because the same district court considered in 2011 whether a bank could effect service of process on a daughter via her mother's Facebook account. In that case, Judge John Keenan ultimately decided that the bank couldn't demonstrate that the daughter actually maintained the account or received the notice.)

In the FTC's case, however, Judge Engelmayer said the commission had put forward facts "that supply ample reason for confidence that the Facebook accounts identified are actually operated by defendants," Reuters reports.

Courts in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia are permitting service of process via Facebook. Even the Texas legislature is considering a bill to adopt the practice. Who knows? Maybe this process will soon be commonplace.

As states begin to consider laws to approve service of process via Facebook, being on the receiving end of a sheep toss no longer seems so bad. As it turns out, a subpoena delivered through Facebook is the ultimate poke.

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