By Kay Floyd
A Texas gun store owner has found himself in a heated battle with a federal judge that, as it turns out, has nothing to do with guns. Instead, it concerns his Facebook. Yes, that is what I said, Facebook
As reported in the Houston Chronicle, Jeremy Alcede lost his store, Tactical Firearms, and shooting range in Katy, Texas, in a bankruptcy proceeding last year. Over the years Alcede was known for his street signs that showcased his own brand of political commentary, ranging from Obama, to immigration, to former Governor Rick Perry.
On April 3, the judge ordered Alcede to turn over his Facebook and Twitter passwords to the new owners because he judged them to be business assets. The judge, Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeff Bohm, wrote a 30-page opinion in support of seizing the passwords. Alcede refused. As a result, Alcede was held in solitary confinement from April 9th through April 17th. Alcede contends that Facebook is his personal property and he should not have to share it. This could become a landmark social media case for business owners and entrepreneurs.
On Friday, April 17th, Judge Bohm stuck to his guns (no pun intended) and would not reconsider his opinion, nor did he agree to release Alcede on bond. Alcede’s attorney predicts that he will continue to refuse the order to turn over the passwords because he considers them personal.
It may be that Alcede is confusing the Facebook policy statement with his contention that he doesn’t have to provide the passwords to his Facebook account. Facebook states: “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.” However, a business’s Facebook site is yet another communication vehicle to reach current and potential clients. Alcede’s Facebook is the company’s voice and is speaking for the brand, not solely for Alcede himself. I am guessing that Judge Jeff Bohm came to this same conclusion and ruled as he did.
The Houston Chronicle reported on May 27 that Alcede provided access to his account and was released from jail after sitting there for weeks. He didn’t finally agree with the judge, but some say he gave up access to his account because one of his friends was diagnosed with cancer. He plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Aside from this overall issue, I am amazed at this scenario: Solitary confinement. In America. In Texas. Over Facebook.
Kay F. Floyd, APR, is owner of Kay F. Floyd & Associates in San Antonio, Texas. She has more than 30 years’ experience of providing public relations consultation in the areas of strategic planning, corporate communications, communications audits, media relations, special events, promotions and merchandising.