A US politician is creating publicity in Texas claiming that he thinks plaintiffs should be allowed to complete service of process via Twitter or Facebook.
State Representative Jeff Leach has introduced a bill that would allow Texas courts to approve substituted service via social media, if the court finds that the “defendant could reasonably be expected to receive actual notice.” The court would need confirmation that the account is authentic, and that the defendant regularly uses it.
There are already a few cases where the court have allowed for personal service via social media.
The High Court gave permission for a claim to be served via Facebook in what was to be a first for a commercial case, in January 2012
Stephenson Harwood partner Paul Thwaite requested permission to serve the claim via Facebook in a bid to join proposed defendant Fabio de Biase in a claim being brought against its client, broker TFS Derivatives, by investment house AKO Capital.
Mr Justice Teare granted permission for the claim to be served on de Biase after the claimant was unable to locate him at his known address.
Mark Hodgson. Managing Director at Tremark one the UK’s leading providers of process serving and investigation services said:
“Courts around the world are beginning to recognise the increasing power of social networking sites like Facebook. Defendants can be evasive, and people do move house all the time. Where the usual avenues of personal service are exhausted and, as long you can confirm that the defendants Facebook or Twitter account remains active, I think this is a very sensible way of serving a claim and giving the defendant an opportunity to respond.
Tremark have also been successful in serving a debtor via text message after texting him a link to a web page where the legal documents could be viewed.
It’s all very well serving proceedings at a last known residential address, but things like your mobile number, email, twitter or facebook account tend to move with you”
In 2009 the High Court in the Blaney v Persons Unknown case allowed a Claimant to serve an injunction against an anonymous Twitter user by sending a sending a direct message containing a link to the injunction.
In Australia, the case of MKM Capital Property Limited v Carmela Rita Corbo and Gordon Kinsley Maxwell Poyser saw the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court allow a default judgment to be served on the Defendants by a private message via Facebook. Printouts of the Defendant’s Facebook profiles including personal details were produced to the court and they were satisfied that the default judgment would reasonably be expected to be brought to the Defendant’s attention.
The Canadian Court in Knott v Sutherland  allowed service on an individual Defendant by sending a notice to the Defendant’s Facebook page as substituted service.
The New Zealand courts in 2008 granted leave for service of court documents via Facebook on an individual whose whereabouts were unknown. Newspaper advertising could not be effectively targeted and it was clear that the defendants had undertaken banking transactions online (Axe Market Gardens Ltd v Axe).
These cases illustrate the courts willingness to take a pragmatic attitude towards means of service when the Defendant is difficult to locate.