Since its initial rise in popularity, social media platforms have significantly changed the way process servers approach service in instances where personal service can’t be effectuated. Over the years, various judges and courts rulings allowed for electronic service via social media, usually when the individual’s physical location cannot be determined and after multiple failed in-person deliveries. In New Jersey, DGR Legal completed the first instance of electronic service through LinkedIn and Instagram. And in August 2020, the Texas Supreme Court ruled to allow service of process in cases where traditional methods proved impossible.
However, the potential for electronic service isn’t the only way social media has impacted process of service. Even if a jurisdiction doesn’t allow for alternate service via social media, process servers can still benefit from the information found on social networking sites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and SnapChat— as well as professional networks like LinkedIn.
Social media & personal service
First, a social media account is often the easiest way for a process server to familiarize themselves with the intended recipient’s appearance, since most users upload a wide variety of photos and videos. Traditionally, process servers may only receive a photo of the individual, which is often outdated or otherwise inaccurate. Social media provides a more comprehensive view of a person’s appearance, including recent changes that can dramatically alter how someone looks— like a change in hair color or style, tattoos, and other body modifications.
Furthermore, most individuals make the majority of their online content public, allowing savvy viewers to easily determine where they live, work, or visit often. But even if the profile is private or restricted, sites like Facebook and LinkedIn still reveal information outside a person’s personal profile, such as their participation in various social groups, membership to organizations, and employment history.
Servers can also find an individual’s comments or reactions on other posts or pages, which may reveal where an individual likes to spend their time and who they interact with outside social media. Additionally, should a process server attempt electronic service through an active social media account, these comments, “likes,” or other activity can be justification for using the account as a legitimate means of delivery.
Electronic service via social media
While useful in terms of convenience and the wealth of information provided, social media doesn’t eliminate the need for due diligence and due process. Even states like Texas, where electronic service is considered an acceptable form of alternate delivery, require process servers to meet specific requirements and protocols. For instance, legal counsel must provide sufficient evidence that the social media accounts actually belong to the recipient, and that the individual regularly accesses and uses these accounts.
Process servers are also required to obey the same laws and ordinances as when delivering documentation in person. They can’t pretend to be another individual when communicating with recipients, or lie about their intentions. So while it may be tempting to make a fake social media account in order to lure someone into revealing their location, process servers must clearly and honestly state their identity and purpose in any online interaction.
At DGR Legal, we recognize the ways in which social media impacts process service. And while in-person delivery is still the preferred method, our experienced process servers are dedicated to completing your delivery safely and efficiently. Whether this means multiple attempts at personal delivery or pursuing every available means of electronic or alternate service, we guarantee fast and reliable service to each of our valued clients.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist with social media process service.