The Internet continues to develop and evolve at lightning-fast speed, with new sites and platforms bursting into prominence as others lose their popularity and fade away. Meanwhile, the law, which is not known for its rapid acceptance of new ideas and technology, struggles to keep up, and so do those who must keep up with both the technological and legal developments.
As the new lead contributor and editorial reviewer for the venerable Internet Law: The Complete Guide, I hope to continue the guide’s value as a roadmap to the changes in technology and the resulting changes in the law. Whether you are operating an online business, running a website for a “brick and mortar” enterprise, or even actively participating in social media, you—and the professionals that advise you—must stay abreast of these changes.
The latest revisions to Internet Law include an expanded discussion of several recent cases that are clear indicators of the increasing ubiquity of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. These cases, from a variety of courts, have held that it is legally permissible, at least in certain circumstances, to provide notice of pending lawsuits via social media.
This is a major development in the law, which has traditionally relied on actual physical delivery of court documents to provide such notice. In the early 2000s, courts began authorizing service via email, but only when physical delivery was practically impossible and often only in conjunction with other means (see, e.g., Rio Properties, Inc. v. Rio International Interlink and Snyder v. Alternate Energy Inc.).
The first U.S. court ruling allowing service via social media came in 2011 (see Mpafe v. Mpafe). Again, the few courts that have allowed service by such means since then have done so only when other methods are impossible, and have usually required the service via social media be done alongside a more traditional method. Other courts have rejected requests to provide service via social media, citing the difficulty in determining whether the owner of a social media account is actually the correct person who is meant to be served.
No matter which method of providing legal notice is used, the standard is that the notice must adequately inform defendants that a lawsuit has filed against them, and give them an adequate opportunity to be heard in the case. The means used to provide the notice must be reasonably calculated to give such notice.
Increasingly, courts are determining that notice via social media meets these criteria.
Specialty Technical Publishers (STP) has just published an entirely new chapter on Social Media and the Law in its publication Internet Law: The Complete Guide and provides a variety of single-law and multi-law services, intended to facilitate clients’ understanding of and compliance with requirements. These include: