all-sm-icons-onlyIf they are business accounts, then yes. A Texas bankruptcy court recently ruled that social media accounts (like Twitter and Facebook) used to promote a business are part of that business’s bankruptcy estate, and the bankruptcy court can order the owner to turn over the passwords. Personal social media accounts, on the other hand, are not part of a business’s bankruptcy estate, said the judge. Of course, determining whether a social media account is personal or instead belongs to a business is the ten thousand dollar question. Especially when a business is small and controlled by one or a few owners, that determination can be tricky.

In the Texas case, Jeremy Alcede , the founder and majority owner of Tactical Firearm, filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy on behalf of his gun shop. As part of the reorganization, a new owner took control of the business. The court ordered Alcede to cede control of all property belonging to Tactical Firearm, including Alcede’s Twitter and Facebook account passwords. In a move that garnered even more attention, Alcede refused to turn over the passwords, opting instead to head off to federal jail.

Alcede argued that the social media accounts where personal, since he created the accounts and administered them. Over the years, the Twitter and Facebook pages, along with the billboard outside the store, became somewhat famous for Alcede’s rants against Obama and gun control advocates. The judge, however, pointed to other factors indicating that the accounts belonged to the business: Both accounts referred to Tactical Firearms and contained links to the business website, both accounts were used to promote Tactical Firearms and increase sales, the Facebook account was set up as a page (generally used by businesses) instead of a profile (generally used by individuals), and the Twitter account’s profile contained a description of Tactical Firearm.