UK: You've Been Served — By Facebook? How Do You "Like" That?

Last Updated: 8 March 2012
Article by Liane Bylett

Liane Bylett, solicitor in our Commercial Disputes Team, explores the revolutionary use of social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, for service of Court papers.

During the course of litigation, some legal documents need to be served upon the other party. The Civil Procedure Rules contain strict rules on how and where documents can be properly served, most of which are traditional methods of sending documents (for example by first class post, or even, if overseas, though diplomatic channels). It is important for parties to get service right, as failure to do so can result in dire consequences. In the recent case of Brown v Button [2011], judgment was set aside on the basis that Button was not properly served with the claim form. However, the Court has the power to permit service by an alternative method or at an alternative place if there is good reason to do so.

There is a growing trend towards permitting service by way of modern methods including text messaging, Facebook and Twitter. There are a number of interesting cases in this area, which are explored further below.

Commonwealth Cases 

Back in 2008, Australian lawyers were experiencing difficulties in serving default judgment upon two defendants and so the lawyers used Facebook to try to locate them. This resulted in an application being made to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court for service via Facebook. The judge was shown printouts of the personal information displayed on the defendants' Facebook pages and was satisfied that a private message on Facebook would be sufficient to bring the judgment to the defendants' attention. 

In March 2009, the Wellington High Court in New Zealand followed suit by permitting service upon a defendant by Facebook. Whilst these two decisions are not binding in English law, they are persuasive because both Australia and New Zealand are Commonwealth countries with similar legal systems. And, as you will see below, it did not take long for English courts to adopt the idea. Logical, but radical!

First Reported English Cases

One of the first English cases considering service by social media is the case of blogger and Twitter user Donal Blaney in October 2009. Mr Blaney obtained an injunction against another blogger who was impersonating him on Twitter. Due to the nature of the internet, the defendant's true identity was not known. It was open to Mr Blaney to apply for an order (known as a Norwich Pharmacal order) for Twitter to reveal the true identity of the blogger, but this would have been a lengthy and expensive process. Instead, Blaney's lawyers applied for service of the injunction via Twitter. Permission was granted and the defendant complied with the injunction, even though he had not been "personally" served face to face, usually a pre-requisite to the enforceability of injunctions.

In early 2011, it was reported that Hastings County Court had permitted service by Facebook on a recalcitrant defendant. The lawyers in this case had reportedly tried the traditional methods of service without success. However the Court was satisfied that the Facebook user identified by the lawyer was in fact the defendant and, no doubt having the Commonwealth decisions in mind, permitted service by Facebook for the first time in the UK. Whilst this was an interesting ruling, decisions made in the County Court are not generally binding on any other courts in future cases.

Recent High Court Decision – TFS Derivatives

In February 2012, Mr Justice Teare in the High Court granted permission for a claim form to be served by Facebook. This is an important decision because High Court decisions are usually binding on lower courts (County Courts). This case involved a claim for Ł1.3m against TFS Derivatives in respect of commission charges. TFS Derivatives wanted to join its former employee, Fabio de Biase, to the action by serving a claim form upon him. The claim form had been served upon Mr de Biase's last known address, but there were concerns that he was no longer living there.

In order to persuade the judge that service by Facebook should be allowed, the lawyers had to prove that the Facebook account belonged to the defendant and that it was regularly accessed by him. The defendant was one of 17 people with the same name on Facebook. However the lawyers produced evidence that Mr Biase was friends on Facebook with his former colleagues at TFS and that recent friend requests had been confirmed. Mr Justice Teare held that there was adequate evidence to persuade him that the account identified by lawyers belonged to the correct Fabio de Biase and that it was an active account. Accordingly the order for service by Facebook was granted.


It appears that the English Courts are attempting to adapt to the modern world and keep up with the developments in social media. On the basis that social media sites only seem to grow in popularity as the years go by, it is likely that there will be more applications of this kind in the future.

However it should be borne in mind that in most of the reported cases the traditional methods of service had either been exhausted or impossible. As yet there is no provision in the Rules for service by social media sites as a "run-of-the-mill" alternative and so applications to the court must be made for permission. It must be proven that the defendant cannot be served using the usual methods.

Judges are also alive to the possibility that anyone can set up an account with a false identity and so have required evidence to prove that the website user is in fact the defendant. However, despite these issues, this is undoubtedly an interesting development in the law on service which we would expect to develop further in the future. For those who may be evading service of court papers, social media may not be as much fun as first thought.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.