The Aussies may be on to something: Reuters reports an Australian court has authorized service of process on Facebook when a defendant could not be located anywhere else.

But how would you know a defendant’s site was genuine and not established by a prankster or an admiring fan?

If virtual service were permitted, we would be more circumspect about establishing a Web presence, and might check our Facebook, MySpace, Linked-in and Plaxo pages more often. I wonder if service of process in real-world cases might be authorized in virtual worlds like Second Life.

Lawyers turn to Facebook to Serve Legal Papers

Wednesday, Dec 17, 2008 8:6PM UTC

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Lawyers in Australia expect the internet social network site Facebook to become a new way of tracking down defendants after a landmark court ruling.

The Supreme Court in Australia’s capital Canberra has ruled that Facebook is a sufficient way of serving legal documents to defendants who cannot be found.

The case surrounded a couple who defaulted on a loan, but who couldn’t be found.

“We couldn’t find the defendants personally after many attempts so we thought we would try and find them on Facebook,” lawyer Mark McCormack said.

“We did a public search based on the email address we had and the defendants Facebook page appeared.”

He said that was enough to convince the court, which found Facebook was a sufficient way of communicating legal papers when it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to personally deliver documents.

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)