Texas A&M to Stop Censoring Posts, Pays PETA Legal Fees in Lawsuit Settlement

TAMU and PETA Reach Settlement in PETA's First Amendment Lawsuit Challenging Censorship Related to Cruel Muscular Dystrophy Experiments on Dogs

For Immediate Release:
February 4, 2020

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

College Station, Texas – In a win for free speech, Texas A&M University (TAMU) has agreed to remove all settings blocking or filtering comments critical of it muscular dystrophy experiments on dogs as part of a settlement of PETA’s First Amendment lawsuit.

PETA’s federal lawsuit, filed in May 2018, challenged TAMU’s use of a “filter” on its official Facebook page. The filter automatically deleted visitor posts and comments if they contained 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. PETA is now dismissing the suit after TAMU agreed to remove all settings blocking or filtering comments on its Facebook page and to pay the group $75,000 in legal fees.

“Texas A&M’s unconstitutional attempt to silence critics of its stomach-turning abuse of dogs has failed,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “The university can no longer violate our First Amendment rights, and now it should stop tormenting dogs in its laboratory.”

PETA’s lawsuit argued 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 was 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—and by Rothfelder & Falick, L.L.P.

“Government censorship of negative comments on its social media sites is rampant at all levels of government,” says David Greene, EFF civil liberties director. “Fortunately, because of this lawsuit, Texas A&M has pledged to stop its unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination on its Facebook page. Hopefully, other agencies and officials will not wait to be sued before ending similar practices.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—has released eyewitness video footage taken inside TAMU’s laboratories 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. The experiments have continued for 37 years and haven’t resulted in a cure or a treatment that reverses symptoms of the disease.

PETA opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind