Business Owner Who Refused To Turn Over Facebook Account Passwords Arrested For Contempt Of (Bankruptcy) Court

from the seems-a-bit-excessive dept

A Texas man apparently spent seven hours in police custody over a Facebook page password.

Jeremy Alcede doesn’t own Tactical Firearms shooting center anymore. Soon, he might not even own his Facebook page password.

Alcede was ordered to hand over his Facebook page’s password to the new owners when the business went bankrupt. He refused to provide it and was subsequently arrested for contempt of court on Wednesday.
That's the short version of what happened. Alcede contends that he was forced out of ownership by the actions of the new owner of Tactical Firearms, Steven "Coe" Wilson. His refusal to sign refinancing papers pushed the business into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Wilson brought in the owner of a former competitor to run the shop (which Wilson apparently intends to rename) and has demanded, via the bankruptcy proceedings, the password to Alcede's Facebook page. (According to Alcede's post on Facebook, he has already given up/lost control of his tacticalfirearm.us email account.)

Alcede, obviously unhappy with this turn of events, has refused to turn it over. Alcede is already somewhat famous (along with his former business) for the polarizing statements he has posted on Tactical Firearms' outdoor sign, including "I like my guns like Obama likes his immigrants: undocumented." Alcede has also built up a solid following on Facebook. Obviously, the new owners would like to harness Alcede's steam, but he's not really OK with that.

First, he asserts that the Tactical Firearms page is actually his personal page. This is somewhat true. Although the URL is https://www.facebook.com/Tacticalfirearms, the page at this address is clearly a personal page rather than a business page -- even if several posts refer to his former business. (This is to be expected from any business owner and even certain employees. Social media accounts tend to mix business and personal posts in ways that are often infuriatingly difficult for judges/legislators to suss out without making things worse.) It would seem that, despite the URL, Alcede shouldn't be forced to hand over his personal page, even if it is heavily skewed towards Tactical Firearms.

However, nothing in the report refers to another Tactical Firearms page under Alcede's control -- this one clearly designated as a business/organization page. This page should probably be turned over to the new owners, although their plan to rename the business makes this seem more like a move to shut a vocal critic down than to take advantage of the 11,000+ followers Alcede has acquired. Alcede may feel that his efforts are being co-opted by undeserving coattail riders, but Facebook business pages (and other official social media accounts) can be considered assets inseparable from the business itself.

The existence of this business page seems to contradict Alcede's indirect statement to the bankruptcy judge.
"When they said they wanted the Facebook, I explained to the attorney who was representing the company that there is no company Facebook page and there's just my personal page. And I asked her to convey that to the judge, and obviously it wasn't conveyed," Alcede said.
There are two pages and one is clearly a business page. Perhaps the new owners listed the wrong URL in their bankruptcy filings and the judge is only following what's contained in the documents. That seems unlikely, considering the disputed (personal) page links directly to the business page. Discovery of this other URL is inevitable.

Seven hours of lockup or no, Alcede still maintains control of both pages. The most recent post on the Tactical Firearms business page is a link to the ABC13 story about his run-in with the bankruptcy judge -- the very article I'm quoting. Obviously, the contempt charge didn't pan out the way the judge had envisioned. Time for Plan B.
A judge has appointed a third party to tally the personal and business posts on that Facebook page to hopefully decide who owns it.
No matter which page you look at, there's a mixture of both. Many posts on the business page aren't directly business-related but do espouse Alcede's political views -- something that definitely aligns with the gun store's target demographic. Whoever's adding this all up should expect to have their interpretations of personal/business posts challenged, just as Alcede has with everything to this point.


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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 24 Dec 2014 @ 4:26am

    "Although the URL is https://www.facebook.com/Tacticalfirearms, the page at this address is clearly a personal page"

    I dare say this is actually the issue - Facebook won't let the new owners use the URL for the business page while it's in use for the personal page, while the presence of the URL at least implies that the original owner used the page for business purposes occasionally if not primarily at some point. Intermingling personal and business properties is a bad idea when one side of the equation fails.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ragnarredbeard, 24 Dec 2014 @ 4:39am

    Guy needs to grow a pair

    Me, I would nuke the page they want. Delete everything except a picture of a donkey.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 24 Dec 2014 @ 7:57am

      Re: Guy needs to grow a pair

      ...and that would achieve.... nothing. He'd still have a page with the URL they want, and make him look like a petulant toddler while doing so. Not for the first time judging by his marketing tactics, but still...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2014 @ 9:56am

        Re: Re: Guy needs to grow a pair

        If they're changing the name of the store, then they have no legitimate need for the URL. On top of that, Facebook "owns" the URL since it's on their domain.

        This entire scenario is absurd. If the guy only put time and effort but invested no money in the Facebook page design or maintenance/hosting, then I wouldn't consider it a business asset.

        I say burn it down. Facebook can issue the URL to the new owners if they want after it's wiped.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 24 Dec 2014 @ 7:12pm

          Re: Re: Re: Guy needs to grow a pair

          If they're changing the name of the store, then they have no legitimate need for the URL.

          Yeah, that's the part I don't get, and one that suggests the demand for the password is more punishment than anything.

          If they were planning on keeping the business name the same, then there might be a reasonable argument that people would get confused, but as it stands, if they plan on changing the store name, what good does the FB page do them? It may or may not be a 'business asset', but with the different names, having it wouldn't seem to do them any good, so why exactly do they want it?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), 24 Dec 2014 @ 4:44am

    Why can't the court just issue an order for Facebook to reset the password on the account?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2014 @ 5:19am

    Why should he give up his contacts he made through business , he worked hard to get them and the people friends and customer relationships he built have nothing to do with the new owners , they get the store it's up to them to do the advertising and not steal his away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      mattshow (profile), 24 Dec 2014 @ 7:49am

      Re:

      Just for the sake of argument, because I'm stuck at work on Dec 24th and there's nothing going on:

      Because he's in bankruptcy. If the Facebook page has value as a business asset, why should he get to hold on to it while his creditors get hosed?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 24 Dec 2014 @ 8:08am

        Re: Re:

        More importantly - what is he losing? At most, an easy way to contact people he used to contact while running the business. Friends? Why aren't they keeping in touch without that page if they're real friends? Business contacts? If they value him, they'll go to his new venture if he's allowed to set one up. Otherwise, they're contacts with the business, not him, and they go.

        Either way, what's stopping him from backing up his contacts (most of them likely publicly available anyway) and informing everyone of his new contact details? There's little here that doesn't seem like sour grapes and perhaps a misunderstanding of what's being demanded (I'm a layman here, but I'd say that it's the URL rather than the page that's really at issue here).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Cressman, 24 Dec 2014 @ 5:58am

    So...

    So, bankruptcy courts can now force you to violate the ToS of websites? Wait... isn't violating the ToS of sites considered "hacking" by some prosecutors... so technically, the bankruptcy court is forcing him to break the law... in which case, this is a clear 5th amendment violation.

    Convoluted logic I know... but no less convoluted than the prosecutors logic often enough!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 24 Dec 2014 @ 7:45am

      Re: So...

      "So, bankruptcy courts can now force you to violate the ToS of websites? "

      Are they doing this?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2014 @ 9:55am

        Re: Re: So...

        From the Facebook TOS:

        8. You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.
        9. You will not transfer your account (including any Page or application you administer) to anyone without first getting our written permission.

        Demanding he give the account and it's password to the new owners of his old business would indeed seem to be forcing him to violate the TOS.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2014 @ 11:09am

          Re: Re: Re: So...

          Ah logic and common sense. Why does nobody in government use it? I think the last time anyone in power did was the 18th century or so.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2014 @ 10:07am

    Same thing as someone suing in order to gain the key to someones home, one they currently occupy and have no plans in moving, instead of buying/building their own

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2014 @ 10:34am

    By the way, wanting to own an undocumented firearm is not a polarizing opinion. Gun registration, which that statement undoubtably refers to, is something almost no firearm owner has a desire for.

    The only people who want documented gun ownership are people that have an issue with gun ownership by people who are legally/procedurally allowed to own them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2014 @ 2:11pm

      Re:

      The statement was said to be polarizing, which it is, because it touched on Obama and immigration policy and gun registration, and the store owner made it clear which side of these issues he's on. It's an oppositional statement that exists in a dichotomous perspective on the issues addressed. That's polarizing.

      But even if we're just talking about gun registration, your own description of the issue illustrates the (perceived) two, often polarized sides of the issue - firearm owners against registration and non-firearm owners who are for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 24 Dec 2014 @ 1:30pm

    I thought Facebook owns all FB pages?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Max Waller (profile), 24 Dec 2014 @ 5:20pm

    A former business owner that refuses to pass his Facebook passwords

    interesting, and I wonder if the new business owner will get the passwords of a Facebook page relating to the Gun Store from the former owner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2014 @ 8:48pm

    Change the password to "password" and write a post on the Facebook page stating that you are doing so to comply with a court order.

    Let the unlucky bastards contend with Facebook to figure out who the new owner is or delete the page due to the ToS violation. Either way, they lose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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