Texas A&M Sued for Violating 1st Amendment Related to Its Torture of Dogs
Many American Universities used to be bastions of free speech and progressive thought, but these days few are and some are even suppressing free speech and subverting the U.S. Constitution, such as Texas A&M.
A potential landmark legal case was launched by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) against Texas A&M University in May 2018. It involves whether it is legal to block public comment on a social media page like Facebook if you’re a government entity.
EFF Filed the case on behalf of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals. They have been highly critical of Texas A&M University’s medical research for a possible cure for muscular dystrophy. PETA has no problem with the goal of the research. It is important and a university with Texas A&M’S assets and reputation certainly could make a major breakthrough in this field, given time, money, the right researchers, and luck. What PETA objects to is how Texas A&M needlessly uses dogs to study the illness.
What Texas A&M is doing in this current research is to supposedly study how muscular dystrophy functions in dogs and use that as a base to evaluating potential treatments for the disease. To do this it first needs a supply of dogs with muscular dystrophy, which it does by specifically breeding golden retrievers which have a high likelihood of developing the illness. To intentionally breed animals who will likely suffer is inhumane enough. PETA says Texas A&M then subjects the dogs to cruel and inhuman treatment as a means of evaluating the disease and in testing experimental treatments for the illness.
With modern biology being far ahead of what it once was, plus access to computer modeling and other advanced technologies, there is no longer the need for using animals in this way for most advanced research. It may be a more expensive way to go to avoid the use of animals, but that does not justify this approach for any reason. Texas A&M is being rightfully attacked for its abuse of animals both in breeding diseaseprone dogs and in the brutal nature of the medical experiments being done with them after they’re born.
What PETA had done in attempting to get Texas A&M to stop this was to organize a targeted advocacy campaign against this research program. As with many other activist groups, PETA has chosen social media channels such as Facebook to go after the University. It had been filing regular postings critical of the research on Texas A&M’S Facebook page. Everything it posted was also consistent with Facebook publishing guidelines. Texas A&M, for its part, understandably did not like the criticism, so they did what any private citizen might do when getting unwanted social media chatter: they blocked PETA and anything else that sounded like similar criticism from its Facebook page.
What Texas A&M did was to systematically block all posts on its page containing the PETA acronym, its full organization name, and specific words such as “cruelty”, “abuse”, “torture”, “lab”, “testing,” and “shut”. That blocking has stayed in place as of this writing.
The problem with what Texas A&M did comes from a combination of the nature of the university and the whole idea of what a Facebook page is. Texas A&M University is America’s second-largest public university based on student population. Its Facebook page is used as a formal part of this governmentfunded educational institution’s public outreach. Its page includes information about its educational curriculum, medical and agricultural research, sports activities, students and related community members. As this writing, the page had recent articles on a research program to create corn strains bred specifically to make whiskey, the opening of The Gardens (a new 7-acre public area with more than 5,500 trees, plants and flowers), the university’s dog mascot, and a look ahead at the school’s fall football season. There are also the usual links to upcoming events and a map showing how to find the University. And for each post on the page there is the opportunity to “Like” or “Comment” on it, just as is the case in other Facebook public pages.
It is this use of the Facebook page as a place for public postings and dialog on behalf of the public University that creates its problems in blocking comments, according to the EFF.
In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on May 14, 2018, PETA says that the Texas A&M Facebook page is a governmentcontrolled forum for speech. It further says that as such, the page cannot keep speech out based on a poster’s point of view. Yet the university has systematically blocked PETA and a list of words tied to PETA’S anti-cruelty campaign being run against the
school’s muscular dystrophy dog lab. The complaint goes on to say that the blockage covers any posters who use PETA’S name or any of those words in their posts.
As EFF ‘s Civil Liberties Director David Greene said about the case, “Speaker-based and viewpoint-based discrimination of speech in a designated public forum like the university’s Facebook page is rarely permitted under the First Amendment. We are asking a judge to declare that Texas A&M’S restrictions against PETA on its Facebook page are unconstitutional and require the university to repost PETA’S content on the site and stop blocking PETA from posting and commenting on the site.”
EFF’S stand is not limited to Facebook and only a public institution like Texas A&M. The organization has taken a stand that when federal, state, local agencies and elected officials use social media like Twitter and Facebook to communicate to the public about their programs, policies and even opinions, the First Amendment prevents those groups or people from blocking public comment back in response.
There is important and recent precedent for the EFF’S position on this. In a case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University claimed seven people – the plaintiffs in the case – had been blocked from the @realdonaldtrump’s Twitter account because of contrary opinions they expressed in replies to Trump’s tweets. On May 23, 2018, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled against Trump for blocking those responses.
In her ruling, Judge Buchwald said that Trump always had the choice to just ignore the opposing viewpoints posted in his Twitter feed. As she said in that case, “No First Amendment harm arises when a government’s ‘challenged conduct’ is simply to ignore the [speaker], as the Supreme Court has affirmed ‘that it is free to do’. ” To clarify that further, she said that, “Stated otherwise, ‘a person’s right to speak is not infringed when government simply ignores that person while listening to others,’ or when the government‘ amplifies’ the voice of one speaker over those of others.”
The Judge found against not just Trump but also the White House social media director and assistant to the president Daniel Scavino. She went on to admonish them both, saying, “Because no government official is above the law and because all government officials are presumed to follow the law once the judiciary said what the law is, we must assume that the President and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional.” Regarding the current case PETA filed against Texas A&M, EFF’S Greene had a very similar message to Texas A&M and all government organizations like theirs. “Our First Amendment rights are infringed when agencies and officials block the posts they don’t like or agree with,” he said. “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 embraced, rather than condemned.”
Once in office, government employees quickly forget that they are public servants and that the purpose of government is to serve the needs of the people, not rule them. When public servants betray the public trust they must be confronted and replaced as needed.
Those who oppose the torture of dogs by Texas A&M should contact the torturer, Joe Kornegay, by email at Jkornegay@cvm.tamu.edu and by phone at 979-845-5941 or 979-458-4968, FAX 979-458-5912, and sign the Change.org petition by clicking HERE.
You can also try to express your thoughts and feelings on the matter at https://www.facebook.com/tamu/.
Some people are also using a technique called remote influencing on Joe Kornegay to help him personally feel the pain and suffering he has been needlessly causing to dogs.
A video workshop on remote influencing can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8edgxtcx5e