More than one judge has approved the use of social media for service of process. Now a judge has approved a bid to use websites like Facebook for informing potential participants of a class action lawsuit.
The New York Federal Court has decided to allow plaintiffs in the case Mark v. Gawker Media LLC to notify other potential plaintiffs of the lawsuit via social media. Gawker, which is an online media company, is being sued by a class of individuals who were once hired as unpaid interns. The interns assert that Gawker violated the Fair Labor Standards Act along with portions of New York labor law.
Plaintiffs already involved in the case felt that there were many other potential class members, yet they were uncertain how to reach them through traditional means, such as U.S. mail. They knew that many former Gawker interns were devoted to social media, and this gave them the idea that these services could be used to spread the word about the lawsuit.
Their initial proposal to the court was rejected as being far too broad and more likely to simply advertise the lawsuit than to actually target likely potential class members. Plaintiffs originally wanted to use a "GawkerInterns" Twitter account with assorted hashtags along with a LinkedIn profile. Their plan also involved Tumblr, Reddit and Facebook.
The court suggested a more personalized and targeted approach, citing that the plaintiffs' original suggestion seemed more like an attempt to punish Gawker than to provide notice to potential class members. Plaintiffs may still use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, but their approach must be more specific and less public. Moreover, the notices that will be provided to other former interns will include much of the approved language that is traditionally utilized in such notices.
The New York federal court seems to be taking a prudent approach to the use of social media in legal matters. They understand that there is a fine line between appropriately advising potential class members and merely contributing to a negative online media campaign. This case may set an important precedent for future class actions.