UPDATE: On Thursday, Texas A&M has released an official comment.
The following is the statement from Amy B. Smith, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for Texas A&M:
"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 the 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.
We will retain counsel and vigorously defend against the lawsuit.
At this time, Texas A&M will not have further comment."
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - PETA, with the help of a third party has filed a lawsuit against Texas A&M University.
The lawsuit was filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of PETA. The group is suing Texas A&M President, Michael Young, on claims that Texas A&M has blocked posts from the group on the university's official Facebook page.
An attorney with EFF, Camille Fischer, is arguing that the A&M Facebook page has blocked words such as "PETA," "animal," and "torture." She claims that automatically blocking certain words are a violation of the First Amendment.
"Texas A&M had changed their settings and designed their Facebook in a way so that people who wanted to speak about these issues, weren't able to speak at all," Fischer said.
She also argues that the Facebook page is a public forum, which according to PETA, government and state-run schools, like Texas A&M, aren't allowed to regulate what is and isn't said in those spaces.
"Allowing government institutions to filter free speech ends up hurting us all," Fischer said.
With the blocking of certain words, Fischer claims that A&M is practicing "viewpoint discrimination." Meaning that EFF claims A&M is discriminating against PETA members and their views on animal testing.
Texas A&M could not comment on the case due to pending litigation. However, the school's public notification for Social Media policy says the university has the right to reject or remove any user-generated content if the content of the post:
- violates the terms of service that governs social media sites
- is threatening, harassing or discriminatory
- contains offensive terms that target protected classes
- incites or promotes violence or illegal activities
- advertises or promotes a non-affiliated commercial product or service, or any entity or individual