Here’s a first for Facebook–the online social network has been used to serve legal documents. According to ABC, a case where the defendants failed to turn up in an Australian court and could not be found otherwise resulted in legal documents being served on Facebook. After the ACT Supreme Court ruled that a judgment be served to defendants on Facebook, a Canberra court was forced to do so. What boggles my mind is how this is considered a fully valid form of document serving anywhere in the world.
Seeing as a Facebook profile is sometimes difficult to verify in terms of its connection with the person the court intends on contacting, serving legal documents involving a court judgment seems a bit far fetched. And how does that work, exactly? Would the court’s “Facebook user” need to be friends with the defendants in order to serve the legal documents in an effective manner–as an attachment perhaps?
The ABC News article goes on to report that the fact that the two defendants were linked as Facebook friends, along with their correct birth dates posted on their profiles was enough to satisfy the court in this particular case. But should that really be enough? Has Facebook become such a saturated standard that being friends with someone is proof of actual acquaintance? Has the world really come to trust Facebook that much? It looks like it. The fact that court authorities are paying attention to Facebook activity says it all.
The social implications of legal documents being served via Facebook reach far beyond the actual legal documents. Such inclusion in a legal court case indicates that Facebook is indeed becoming central and integral to online culture and all forms of communication therein. While Facebook is part of a precedent for the serving of legal documents online, there are other precedents in the digital age that are worth noting. Email, for instance, has been approved for the delivery of court judgments, as have text messages.
Will this change the standard for court systems around the world, or is this an interesting situation that was resolved by desperate measures for desperate times? Perhaps more importantly, would any other social network be considered for delivering court judgments?