Courts in the United Kingdom and elsewhere are starting to allow lawsuits to be served over Facebook. This has got to be the best idea since the Magna Carta. Imagine signing in to Facebook, and right underneath an invitation to “Gwendolyn’s Fourth 29th Birthday!” is “Motion for Summary Judgment” from the parents of the kid who fell off your swing set two years ago.
Maybe they could just dispense with the need for serving a lawsuit and place a “sue” button on everyone’s profile page, right next to the “add as friend” button. “So-and-so would like to sue you for $500,000.00 plus interest and attorneys’ fees. Accept service? Yes-No-Maybe.”
In most jurisdictions, serving the initiatory papers in a lawsuit have the most burdensome service requirements; any papers after that, known as interlocutory papers, may be served by regular mail, overnight delivery, or carrier pigeon. So if a summons and complaint can be served through Facebook, it makes sense to allow other legal documents, like motions and demands for incriminating photographs, to be sent the same way.
But why stop at just documents? The whole trial could take place over Facebook. The judge would have his or her own “Fan Page,” with a photograph of the judge in the upper left-hand corner. The lawyers would post evidence on the page’s wall, and any Facebook user who liked the page, anyone at all, could post comments, such as “ha ha there’s the smoking gun LOL.” The witness’s testimony could be liked as well, and whichever witness gets the most likes would be deemed the most credible.
Turning Facebook into a legal forum would have the greatest utility in divorce proceedings. Freeing oneself of the old ball ‘n’ chain would take nothing more than changing one’s relationship status from “married” to “single.” Divorce papers would automatically be served, via Facebook messaging, upon the soon-to-be ex-spouse. To the extent that the spouses in litigation have friends in common, those friends would be given an option to choose one spouse or the other, so that things are not awkward.
The Facebook staff would have to add a photo editing feature so that people could be untagged and erased from group photographs, and comments referencing the former spouse would be automatically edited to reflect the new-found independence. So a comment underneath a photograph of the former spouses that once said
“You guys make such a cute couple!”
would be changed along with the edited photo to
“Watch out, fellas! Cougar on the prowl!”
What do you think about suing people through Facebook? Is this a good use of social media? What other public goods could Facebook provide?