Internet Law

Service of process via Twitter is allowed in suit against Kuwaiti man accused of funding ISIS

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A federal magistrate judge in San Francisco has approved service of a lawsuit via Twitter on an overseas Kuwaiti national accused of helping fund ISIS.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler allowed the Twitter service in a suit by the nonprofit St. Francis Assisi, the Technology & Marketing Law Blog reports. The suit had alleged ISIS financing led to the murder of Assyrian Christians in Iraq and Syria.

The nonprofit was not able to locate and serve Kuwaiti national Hajjaj al-Ajmi, one of three defendants in the suit.

Beeler said service via Twitter is not barred by any international agreement with Kuwait, and it is reasonably calculate to give notice. “Al-Ajmi has a large following on Twitter,” Beeler wrote, “and has used the social-media platform to fundraise large sums of money for terrorist organizations by providing bank-account numbers to make donations.” His Twitter account is active and he continues to use it, she added.

The court authorized the Twitter service under Rule 4(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which governs service of foreign defendants. Courts have allowed service by email, Facebook and LinkedIn under the rule, Beeler said in the Sept. 30 order (PDF).

According to the Technology & Marketing Law Blog, the case is one of the first to approve service of a foreign defendant by social media only. In cases involving domestic defendants, the federal rules don’t allow service by electronic means, the blog says.

A blog post comment by Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman says it’s possible that al-Ajmi will never receive the Twitter notice because the social media platform gives users the ability to turn off direct messages and to block or mute other users.

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