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Should it be legal to serve divorce papers on Facebook?

(SOCIAL MEDIA NEWS) For those unlucky in love, Facebook offers a way to be told that your marriage is over: the electronic delivery of divorce papers.

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facebook divorce

You’ve been served

Since its beginnings in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, we’ve increasingly come to rely on Facebook for a multitude of services through its core brand, as well as its multiple acquisitions.

Want to stay in touch with old friends and make new ones? It’s got it. Take and share multitudes of photos in your daily life, documenting the sublime to the banal? It’s got that, too. Virtual reality? Yes, even that.

And, for those unlucky in love, Facebook offers a way to be told that your marriage is over: the electronic delivery of divorce papers.

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The traditional way

To be fair, Facebook — and the law — doesn’t discriminate as to which kind of process service you receive on the platform. So, instead of divorce papers, it might well be a notice that you’re being sued by a neighbor. And, to be fair, Facebook or other social media sites won’t be the first step taken to contact you.

We’re familiar with the trope of the process server. He hangs about outside of the house or office of the soon-to-be-served, resorting to subterfuge when necessary to get the signature he needs on the documents, saying “You’ve been served,” as the papers flutter into the hands of the sued.

Very little of this is close to a true depiction of what life is like for the process server, but the image persists. In some instances however, it is accurate.

It’s not hard to imagine the lengths people might go to avoid being sued. Accurate and timely service of process of a complaint is crucial to ensure the potential defendant in a proceeding knows they are being sued, and has the fullest ability to respond to the claims against them.

A new precedent

If you’re being sued, you can expect the courts to attempt to notify you through traditional methods like in-person service or through certified mail. However, when neither of those methods prove fruitful, courts may allow the plaintiff to attempt to serve you through substituted or alternative service methods, including electronic service.

A decade ago, using e-mail to provide service of process was a novelty. Courts fretted over this, as they were uncertain about the reliability and the ubiquitousness of the method. However, as we’ve seen, the overwhelming majority of Americans regularly check their e-mail accounts.

Using e-mail to provide notification to parties in a case is now a regularly accepted tool.

With the continued expansion of social media sites, such as Facebook, one could argue an expansion of process service to include those sites would ensure people are notified in a reliable way.

Working for the read receipt

“The desire to give actual notice is at the heart of service. The strongest argument for effectuating service of process through social media — Facebook in particular — is that, in many cases, the likelihood of the defendant receiving actual notice is extremely high because users of social media typically access their accounts regularly,” writes Keely Knapp, JD, in the Louisiana Law Review. “Moreover, through social media the plaintiff has the ability to gauge a defendant’s interaction on the account, which makes assessing the chance of actually receiving notice even more accurate.”

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Think about it for a moment. If the process server can verify you logged into your Facebook or other social media account and posted updated, or interacted through Messenger, then, when all else traditional fails, that’s the best — and probably most accurate — way to let you know you need to respond to a lawsuit.

The critical point here is that you’ve got to be able to ascertain that it’s actually the person who is named on the account using it to be able to claim that service of process via Facebook was accurate and timely. Consider for example a recent divorce trial in Brooklyn. The state of New York previously allowed Facebook as an alternate means of service when all else had failed. However, the judge in this case ruled that the defendant hadn’t interacted with his Facebook account since 2014.

Given a lack of updated information, there was no way to establish that he would presumptively come across it. While his wife argued that she had interacted with her husband on Facebook since 2014, she had no physical documentation of those exchanges.

“As such, plaintiff has not demonstrated that… service by Facebook is reasonably calculated to apprise defendant of the matrimonial action,” concluded the judge. “Before the Court could consider allowing service by Facebook…the record must contain evidence that the Facebook profile was one that defendant actually uses for receipt of messages.”

Utah, the cutting edge of law

The model for utilizing social media sites as an alternative service of process comes from a perhaps unlikely source: the state of Utah.

The state has been at the leading edge of considering ways to allow its citizens to interact with the court system in a smoother fashion.

Because of this forward thinking attitude, the state amended its rules of civil procedure in 2001 — before the existence of Facebook — to include electronic formats, mentioning email and “other possible electronic means”.

Thinking back to 2001, the social media landscape was barren. Sure there was Xanga, but Friendster wouldn’t come along until the next year, and Tom wouldn’t be our friend on Myspace until 2004. So, as Stephanie Irvine noted, “what was also genius about this is that when said electronic means became possible, the law wouldn’t need to be rewritten, and thus, judges could determine when the “other means” would be appropriate.”

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The courts in Utah have remained progressive, at least on this front. In 2010, rules were amended, and a specific affidavit was created for process service by electronic means, specifically mentioning “Social Network (such as Facebook), Twitter, Text Message, and Phone.”

Soon to be adopted as normal

While not every state has caught up to the electronic revolution for alternative electronic means of process service, there will come a time when it will seem like a normal part of operations. We’ve accepted the alteration of our lives with the assistance of technology. The unimaginable and fantastic are becoming commonplace daily.

The ingrained nature of social media means that, for some, it is the most reliable means of getting in touch with them.

Their online presence may be more stable than their corporeal one.

As with any form of legal documentation, ensuring the intended recipient actually receives it and can be documented doing so is critical. So as you peruse your Facebook timeline or Twitter feed, be careful about just scrolling on through. You might just miss an important date in your future.

#Served

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Social Media

If you’re not on Clubhouse, you’re missing out – here’s why

(SOCIAL MEDIA) What exactly is Clubhouse, and why is it the quarantine app sensation? There’s a few reasons you should definitely be checking out right now!

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Clubhouse member hanging out on the app, on a couch with mask on their face.

The new exclusive app Clubhouse is challenging what social media can be – and it might possibly be the best thing to blow up during quarantine.

Developed by ex-Google employee Rohan Seth and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davison, Clubhouse has only been gaining in popularity since lockdown. Here’s why you need to join immediately:

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is like if subreddit pages were live podcasts. Or maybe if niche, topic-centric Zoom chatrooms could connect you with people from all over the world. But it’s ONLY audio, making it perfect for this period of lockdown where no one truly looks their best.

From networking events to heated debates about arts and culture to book clubs, you can truly find anything you want on Clubhouse. And if you don’t see a room that peaks your interest, you can make one yourself.

Why is it special?

Here’s my hot take: Clubhouse is democratizing the podcast process. When you enter a room for women entrepreneurs in [insert your industry], you not only hear from the established experts, but you’ll also have a chance to listen to up-and-coming users with great questions. And, if you want, you can request to speak as well.

If you click anyone’s icon, you can see their bio and links to their Instagram, Twitter, etc. For professionals looking to network in a deeper way, Clubhouse is making it easier to find up and coming creatives.

If you’re not necessarily looking to network, there’s still so much niche material to discover on the app. Recently, I spent an hour on Clubhouse listening to users discuss the differences in American and British street fashion. It got heated, but I learned A LOT.

The celebrities!

Did I mention there’s a TON of celebrities on the app? Tiffany Haddish, Virgil Abloh, and Lakeith Stanfield are regulars in rooms – and often host scheduled events. The proximity to all kinds of people, including the famous, is definitely a huge draw.

How do you get on?

Anyone with an iPhone can make an account, but as of now you need to be “nominated” by someone in your contacts who is already on the app. Think Google+ but cooler.

With lockdown giving us so much free time that our podcasts and shows can’t keep up with the demand, Clubhouse is a self-sustaining content mecca. Rooms often go on for days, as users in later time zones will pick up where others left off when they need to get some sleep. And the cycle continues.

Though I’m still wrapping my brain around it, I can say with fair certainty that Clubhouse is very, very exciting. If you have an hour (or 24) to spare, try it out for yourself – I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

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TikTok: A hotbed of cultural appropriation, and why it matters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Gen Z’s favorite app TikTok is the modern epicenter for cultural appropriation – why you as a business owner should care.

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TikTok creator with a phone recording on a stand, but dances can be a sign of cultural appropriation.

Quarantine has been the catalyst for a sleuth of new cultural phenomena – Tiger King, Zoom, and baking addictions, to name a few. Perhaps most notably, TikTok has seen user numbers skyrocket since lockdown. And I don’t think those numbers are going down any time soon.

TikTok is a very special place. More so than any other social media apps I’ve engaged with, TikTok feels like a true community where total strangers can use the app’s duet or audio features to interact in creative, collaborative ways.

However, being able to use another user’s original audio or replicate their dance has highlighted the prevalence of cultural appropriation on TikTok: the app, as wholesome as it may be at times, has also become a hot bed for “virtual blackface”.

The most notable example of appropriation has to do with the Renegade dance and Charli D’Amelio – who is young, White, and arguably the most famous TikTok influencer (she is second only to Addison Rae, who is also White). The dance, originally created by 14-year-old Black user Jalaiah Harmon, essentially paved the way for D’Amelio’s fame and financial success (her net worth is estimated to be $8 million).

Only after Twitter backlash did D’Amelio credit Harmon as the original creator of the dance to which she owes her wealth – up until that point, the assumption was the dance was hers.

There is indeed a myriad of exploitative and appropriative examples of TikTok videos. Some of the most cringe-worthy include White users pantomiming black audio, in many cases affecting AAVE (African American Vernacular English). Styles of dance and music that were pioneered by Black artists have now been colonized by White users – and many TikTokers are not made aware of their cultural origins.

And what’s worse: TikTok’s algorithms favor White users, meaning White-washed iterations of videos tend to get more views, more engagement and, subsequently, more financial gains for the creator.

As you can imagine, TikTok’s Black community is up in arms. But don’t take it from me (a non-Black individual) – log onto the app and listen to what Black users have to say about cultural appropriation for yourself.

Still, the app is one of the fastest growing. Companies are finding creative ways to weave their paid ads and more subliminal marketing strategies into the fabric of the ‘For You’ page. In many ways, TikTok is the next frontier in social media marketing.

With a few relevant locational hashtags and some innovative approaches to advertising, your business could get some serious FREE attention on TikTok. In fact, it’s the future.

As aware and socially conscious small business owners, we need to make sure that while we are using the app to get ours, that the Black creators and artists who made the app what it is today are also getting theirs. Anything short of direct accountability for the platform and for caustic White users would be offensive.

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Promoted tweets getting over-promoted? Time for Twitter backlash

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter has enacted changes to how frequently Promoted Tweets – i.e., ads – are seen by users, and in true Twitter fashion, there’s mixed opinions.

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Smartphone open to Twitter with promoted tweets open on the top of the feed.

Did anyone else ever watch the Strong Bad Emails cartoons from Homestarrunner? One of the running gags there – and subsequently one of my favorite bits – was when he’d just delete a fan’s email outright while insulting the author. Strong Bad was great at laying down the delete hammer and had zero cares in the world about doing it.

The idea that you – as a user, person, entity – can reclaim a little bit of omniscient authority is powerful. Generally, we like being in control of our lives, and the ability to exercise that authority resonates deeply.

Digital companies are still coming to terms with the idea that their users maintain some ability to revolt against their new policies, trying to straddle the line between new features and improved tools while still keeping an existing audience happy. Typing “hate the new” into Google will show results solely around new interfaces and an endless string of abhorrence. The new Facebook layout is bad. The new Gmail is bad and here’s how to revert it.

I’m sure others exist for any widely used app or service. Sometimes even new logos incite rage. I’m not here to make a statement either way, but usually there’s some ground in between pure opinion and justifiable discussions about user interface and experience. Regardless, change can make users upset.

Twitter recently rolled out changes to how Promoted Tweets work. You should know first that a promoted tweet is just an ad, and were originally set to appear only once per timeline. However, recent updates to Twitter’s internal services has resulted in some users reporting the same ad being shown multiple times in rapid succession, and even repeatedly over and over.

Think about Google search results – there are definitely ads at the top of the first page, and they are usually relevant to the topic at hand and only show up in that area. A user can quickly scroll downward past this and look through other results. But imagine how frustrating it might be to have a first page riddled primarily with ads, effectively choking out other results.

Twitter maintains that, “we’re thoughtful in how we display Promoted Tweets, and are conservative about the number of Promoted Tweets that people see in a single day.” This has led some users to believing this behavior indicates some kind of issue with their internal systems. I like to think about the scene in Office Space where Michael Bolton (not the singer) mentions that he may have put a decimal in the wrong place; that is, there’s a configuration error at Twitter instead of some kind of sea change.

However, Twitter has said this is not a glitch. In fact, they stated it was intentional, and further clarified that, “We regularly experiment and deploy changes to our advertising experience. We are constantly innovating and testing, and will continue to adapt as we learn.” Despite worldwide complaints, Twitter has not officially acknowledged this situation as problematic.

As a result, many users have taken to blocking the advertisers involved with the Promoted Tweets. Much like Strong Bad exercising his ultimate authority over his domain, this means that companies are in danger of losing their ability to reach users entirely. As this number grows, the consequences could widespread, and it will be interesting to see if Twitter changes their outlook and/or has potential pressure from advertisers. Twitter has stated that this may simply be temporary to exhaust a surplus of ad inventory, and this remains to be seen.

As users continue to voice their complaints, it will be interesting to see how the situation ultimately resolves.

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