Animal Rights Groups Sue The NIH Over Censorship

There is an interesting lawsuit filed in Washington against the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) over censorship.  The lawsuit was brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and the Animal Legal Defense Fund after the government blocked comments on opposing animal testing on the agencies’ social media sites. The lawsuit has ample support in the case law. Notably, it also comes at a time when the Administration and many Democratic leaders, like President Joe Biden, have called on private companies to engage in massive censorship programs on social media.  The lawsuit was filed in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Collins, No. 1:21-cv-02380 (D.D.C.).

The Complaint alleges that NIH and HHS are blocking comments containing keywords associated with viewpoints critical of animal testing from the agencies’ social media pages:

The NIH, through individuals acting as administrator(s) and/or account holder(s), uses keyword blocking to target and hide comments that criticize the government’s animal testing practices, including Plaintiffs’ comments. As explained in detail below, see ¶¶ 60–79, Plaintiffs discovered the blocked keywords through their own experiences attempting to communicate on the NIH’s social media pages and through a FOIA request submitted by Mr. Hartkopf. The following keywords are blocked from the NIH’s Instagram and/or Facebook accounts:




Animal(s), animalitos, animales

Chimpanzee(s), chimp(s)



Cats, gatos [i.e., Spanish for “cats”]

Monkey(s), monkies

Mouse, mice


Test(ing), testing facility



Suomi,1 Harlow2

Hurt, hurting


Torture(s), torturing




The complaint is well-supported.  Notably, in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, 928 F.3d 226 (2d Cir. 2019), the Second Circuit held that President Trump could not block users from his @realDonaldTrump account: “We conclude that the evidence of the official nature of the Account is overwhelming. We also conclude that once the President has chosen a platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants, he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with.”

This is an easier case. There is no question that this is a public website as opposed to the contested status of the @realDonaldTrump account.  The Supreme Court held in Manhattan Community Access Corp. et al. v. Halleck et al., 587 U.S. ___, 139 S.Ct. 1921, 204 L.Ed.2d 405 (2019) “[w]hen the government provides a forum for speech (known as a public forum), the government may be constrained by the First Amendment, meaning that the government ordinarily may not exclude speech or speakers from the forum on the basis of viewpoint ….” See also Pleasant 237*237 Grove, 555 U.S. at 469-70, 129 S.Ct. 1125 (viewpoint discrimination prohibited in traditional, designated, and limited public forums); Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., 473 U.S. 788, 806, 105 S.Ct. 3439, 87 L.Ed.2d 567 (1985) (viewpoint discrimination prohibited in nonpublic forums).

What is interesting is that this is a lawsuit that is likely to garner support on the left from some of the same people who are calling for censorship of “disinformation” and “misinformation.” The anti-free speech movement is abandoning bright line rules in favor of judgments on what is true and what is false or misleading.

In the last few years, we have seen an increasing call for private censorship from Democratic politicians and liberal commentators. Faculty and editors are now actively supporting modern versions of book-burning with blacklists and bans for those with opposing political views. Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll has denounced the “weaponization” of free speech, which appears to be the use of free speech by those on the right. So the dean of one of the premier journalism schools now supports censorship.Free speech advocates are facing a generational shift that is now being reflected in our law schools, where free speech principles were once a touchstone of the rule of law. As millions of students are taught that free speech is a threat and that “China is right” about censorship, these figures are shaping a new society in their own intolerant images.

The most chilling aspect of this story is how many on left applaud such censorship. A new poll shows roughly half of the public supporting not just corporate censorship but government censorship of anything deemed “misinformation.”

Here is the complaint: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Collins, No. 1:21-cv-02380 (D.D.C.).



15 thoughts on “Animal Rights Groups Sue The NIH Over Censorship”

  1. Maybe the government wants to mute PETA because the powerful politicians are hypocritical. They want us to pay out the roof for fossil fuels and blow up the world as we know it in the name of climate changed but they won’t practice what they preach. Massive corporate farming, feed yards and dairy really are hard on the environment. (We are not talking grandpa’s farm) If the climate change proponents were to set an example they would actually become vegan, stop flying around in jets and driving SUVs. But they do none of these. Instead, the do not practice what preach and they might buy a carbon offset to ease their seared conscience.

    Maybe they are afraid that if animal testing were restricted it might interfere with the vaccines and the vaccine industry.

    Either way, the shoe is in the other foot. I hope PETA wins big.

  2. Animal testing is incredibly sad. The beagle is the dog most often used in animal testing, due to its small size, health, and temperament. I can’t even look at a beagle without thinking of lab beagles.

    If you’ve ever taken a prescription mediation, you have benefitted from animal testing. The LD50, Lethal Dose 50, is the dose at which 50% of lab animals (rats) die. As much testing as possible is done in vitro, but the FDA requires some animal testing.

    Some testing isn’t too bad. Regularly taking blood from dogs to test for antibodies, for example. It’s not too bad if the dogs are treated well, and they can be adopted out after. In some animal testing, all the subjects are killed at the end, either for disposal, or because they need to examine the organs.

    Certain tests are still done via vivisection because they have to be. I recall I was invited by a coworker to witness an important test of his work. There was a crowd of people there. There was an anesthetized rat that had been opened. I can’t explain what the drug was, or why it had to be done on a living animal like this without revealing the company, but they had to see the result on a living animal to see if it worked. It did, and it was a major breakthrough in human medicine. The animals was humanely killed after the test.

    I remember talking to a scientist about my strong revulsion for animal research. He said that most people are against animal research. They love animals and would never want to hurt one. Then, he said, ask a mother of a very sick child how many rats she’d be willing to kill to find a cure. The answer would probably be an endless number. A human clinical trial is not allowed to begin until there is safety data from the animal phase. You can’t canvass for volunteers to try this drug that’s never been given to any living creature before.

    Some pretty awful animal research took place in order to develop treatments for serious human burn injuries.

    And skin grafts? You can probably guess how skin grafts were developed, and organ transplants, and medical devices, and medications, and vaccines…

    You know how people were hesitant to take the Covid vaccine until it was FDA approved? Well, it would have had to undergo animal studies before it was ever greenlighted for human trials.

    They mostly use mice, monkeys, and ferrets for Covid research.

    I hate animal research. I grieve for the animals who feel fear, pain, and for those who die. The best we can do at this point is to use in vitro wherever possible, adopt out dogs and other pet animals after their service wherever possible, and to be humane.

    Of course there needs to be people advocating on behalf of the animals, who have no voice. They can work to get better treatment, and alternatives wherever possible. Without a movement criticizing the use of lab animals, we might not have high standards for the use and treatment of lab animals, especially primates.

    If you want to donate to or adopt from a rescue that helps former lab animals, here is a list. Of course the home page is full of beagle. Poor Beagles.

  3. Everyday is more proof that all the people worrying about Trump being tyrannical were either tyrannical or had their worries misplaced or both.

  4. How communiatic are we going to allow the be is the question. No wonder they kept saying Russia Russia Russia…
    They are acting just like Russia in the 60’s…..
    Jobama Biden the illegitimate president who has no brain is being run by Barry Soetoro and Valerie Jarrett… throw in a Peter Strotz….

  5. If the animal people keep supporting these Marxist they may find themselves in cages someday.

  6. PETA vs. censorship…How about we stop animal testing and use PETA members/donors instead. Problems solved.

    Can the left stop censoring people? WTF is their problem with that? Pathetic insecure people making stupid and dangerous decisions based upon their unwillingness to acknowledge their Dunning-Kruger afflictions. Yeah, the government now acts like a suburban HOA, pretending to pander to everyone while actually only pandering to their own egos.

  7. The Hypocrat Dems are laughable and sad specimens of humanity. What’s most disturbing is that Democrats/PETAfans in the US thinks that Pres. Trump should be banned from Twitter/FB and the technocrat cabal but thinks that this is different and they should sue. They should live their values and be pleased with censorship. It shows an inability to think critically and basically a stupidity that is scary. Far scarier than medical research.

  8. This appears to be censorship by bureaucrats.

    That means that the courts will tell them to accept the banned words, and that will be the end of the matter.

    No personal consequences, no sanctions, no punishment for the bureaucrats who illegally censored American citizens.

    After the plaintiffs spent lots of money and the censorship went on for months (or years).

    Lefties, I keep warning you that your TDS will lead to ugly consequences. This is just a small example.

    Wait until the FBI and the IRS are weaponized against you.

  9. PETA and other groups wanted Biden and the Radical policies they got them CENSORSHIP – Its great that more of groups such as Unions and groups like PETA are suing the Admin. The attitude of those who want censorship made of the Radical Left Wing of the Dem party and also the mood of the country is Negative – along with a FAILED President and Socialist Radical Left Dem party – who are on the verge of handing the Republicans major election victories and then the fun really begins, you thought the Radical Left is going crazy now wait until they looooose power along with the Courts.

  10. The Biden administration violating the constitution again? Be honest with yourself; with the Biden administration doing one thing after another things that have been flagrantly anti-constitutional, anti individual rights and anti-Liberty, who out there honestly didn’t see this one coming.

    If you haven’t already noticed yet; totalitarianism is already here, the question is, is is it here to stay? The answer is up to “We the People”.

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