You’re suing someone for defamation, but you only know your detractor’s screen-name. So, the burning question is: Can you serve notice online? In a word, yes. That said, before a court will issue permission to serve notice online, you’ll have to prove you attempted various other methods before resorting to the use of social media or other digital service options.
Precedence For Serving Notice Online
Earlier this year, a US court agreed to let the Federal Trade Commission serve a pair of potential scam artists in India. Specifically, the two gentlemen were served notice via email and Facebook.
The road to this outcome, however, was a long one.
Before attorneys for the FTC could secure the online service approval, they exhausted every other avenue. It took months.
In addition to searching high and low for ways to serve the suspects in person or via traditional postal services, plaintiffs in the case had to provide significant evidence that the proposed email and Facebook accounts were active and valid. After all, serving notice to the wrong digital account could be legally disastrous.
Data the plaintiffs provided to the courts in order to get the OK to serve notice online:
- The plaintiffs had the government names of their opponents;
- The names the plaintiffs had were the same used in the proposed email address and Facebook accounts;
- The uspects’ Facebook profiles made mention of the company being investigated by the FTC;
What If You Only Have The Person’s Screen Name? Can You Still Serve Notice Online?
The jury and judge are still out on whether or not it’s acceptable to serve an anonymous defendant via electronic means – specifically, via email or a social media account. One of the reasons the courts granted the FTC approval is because significant evidence existed that the people being sought were the people behind the proposed accounts for service. If the defendant has keen obfuscatory skills, though, it’s very tough to provide the level of evidence needed to secure an online service notice.
Is It Possible To Uncover The Name Of An Anonymous Defamer?
Before trying to serve notice online, it’s best to attempt to uncover the anonymous defamer via a court order. While convincing courts to grant an order or injunction to reveal the name of an individual posting online can be difficult, it can be done.
If you don’t have experience filing motions, it’s best to contact an online defamation lawyer to handle the process of getting a court order to either (a) unearth the name of an online poster or (b) remove the content from a search engine.