Texas A&M Faces First-Of-Its-Kind Lawsuit Over Facebook Censorship
PETA Challenges School’s Filtering of Posts About Cruel Muscular Dystrophy Experiments on Dogs
For Immediate Release:
May 15, 2018
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382
College Station, Texas – PETA has filed a federal lawsuit against Texas A&M University (TAMU) challenging the school’s use of a “filter” on its official Facebook page. The filter automatically deletes visitor posts and comments if they contain words such as “PETA,” “cruelty,” “lab,” and other terms associated with PETA’s high-profile campaign against the school’s muscular dystrophy experiments on dogs.
How and when a government-operated social media account becomes a “public forum” is a critically important issue. The outcome of PETA’s groundbreaking lawsuit will have enormous implications for individuals and advocacy organizations that use social media in protest and public-awareness campaigns.
“Texas A&M knows that it can’t possibly defend 37 years of cruel and fruitless experiments on dogs on the merits, so the school has resorted to silencing critics and shutting down debate,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “PETA’s lawsuit aims to restore the First Amendment rights of everyone who wants to speak out against Texas A&M’s cruelty to animals.”
PETA’s lawsuit argues that TAMU’s Facebook page constitutes a public forum and that the school’s censorship represents viewpoint-, content-, and speaker-based discrimination, which is a violation of PETA’s constitutional right to free speech. The group is represented in part by attorneys with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the privacy and free-speech rights of all people in the digital era.
“Our First Amendment rights are infringed when agencies and officials block posts they don’t like or disagree with,” said EFF Civil Liberties Director David Greene. “And the rights of all readers are affected when the government manipulates its social media pages to make it appear that its policies and practices are universally embraced, rather than widely condemned.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—has released eyewitness video footage showing that dogs who were deliberately bred to develop a crippling and painful form of muscular dystrophy are left struggling to walk, swallow, and even breathe. These experiments have continued for 37 years, and no cure for the disease has been found.