PETA claims Texas A&M is violating First Amendment rights by blocking critics online

Published: May. 27, 2018 at 5:33 PM CDT
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A ruling by a federal judge last week could be a factor in a lawsuit filed against Texas A&M University by an animal rights organization.

"Like President Trump's Twitter feed, Texas A&M University's Facebook page is a forum open to the public," said PETA in a written statement to KBTX.

PETA has filed a federal lawsuit against A&M, challenging the school's use of a filter on its official Facebook page. According to PETA, the filter automatically deletes visitor posts and comments if they contain words such as "PETA," "cruelty," "lab," and other terms associated with PETA's campaign against the school's use of dogs in research for muscular dystrophy.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled President Donald Trump violates the First Amendment when he blocks critics on Twitter.

“A declaratory judgment should be sufficient, as no government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared,” Judge Buchwald wrote.

Responding to the ruling, PETA says it "is an irrefutable message to government officials who are banning dissenting views: You need to stop. If the president of the United States can't violate the First Amendment, it should be clear to Texas A&M officials that they can't, either."

PETA says the outcome of its lawsuit will have enormous implications for individuals and advocacy organizations that use social media in protest and public-awareness campaigns.

Texas A&M says it will retain counsel and vigorously defend against this lawsuit.

In a written statement to KBTX, Texas A&M said:

"We strongly support freedom of speech at Texas A&M. Over the past two years, PETA and its supporters have protested against Texas A&M research activities on campus, at events, on campus buses and online. We respect their right to do so in spite of the continued misinformation they spread. Texas A&M has taken reasonable steps to manage the University Facebook account in light of online attacks on our platform organized and encouraged by PETA. We have taken these steps only after these attacks of PETA and its supporters became so extreme that they significantly interfered with University business, the ability of our communications employees to perform their duties and the ability of other members of the Texas A&M community to have meaningful access to our Facebook platform."