HomePoliticsAppeal in PETA's undercover recording case declined by US Supreme Court, says...

Appeal in PETA’s undercover recording case declined by US Supreme Court, says Reuters.

US Supreme Court Rejects Appeal in PETA Undercover Recording Case

Supreme Court Declines to Hear North Carolina’s Defense of Anti-Undercover Recording Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has chosen not to review a state law in North Carolina that aimed to prevent hidden-camera investigations from causing harm to farms and businesses. The law, which was challenged by animal rights groups including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has been deemed unconstitutional by a lower court. The court ruled that the law violated the First Amendment right to free speech when applied to “newsgathering activities.” However, it did not address the law’s validity in non-newsgathering contexts.

PETA Celebrates Supreme Court Decision

PETA conducts undercover investigations to expose animal abuse in various industries such as laboratories, farms, and slaughterhouses. The organization wanted to investigate animal testing labs at the University of North Carolina but feared the potential monetary damages imposed by the state law. This law, referred to as an “ag-gag” measure, is one of several attempts across the country to restrict animal rights activists. PETA celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the appeals regarding the law.

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Animal Rights Groups Argue Against the Law

Multiple organizations, including PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit in 2016 to block the enforcement of the law, claiming it infringes on the free speech rights of whistleblowers. The law allows businesses and property owners to sue employees who secretly record or remove documents from non-public areas, using the information to breach their duty of loyalty. The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law violates the First Amendment in the context of “newsgathering activities.”

Law’s Supporters Argue for Protection

North Carolina’s Attorney General, Josh Stein, and a trade association representing farmers supported the law. They argued that it offers protection to all employers against various harms, such as unauthorized use of trade secrets or patient information. Stein emphasized that “newsgatherers have no First Amendment right to break generally applicable laws,” including trespassing.

Undercover Investigations and Selective Editing

Undercover investigations are carried out by activist organizations on both the left and right to expose wrongdoing. However, some have been accused of selectively editing videos to portray their subjects in a negative light.

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It is important to protect free speech rights while also considering the potential consequences of undercover investigations. The Supreme Court’s decision not to review the North Carolina law leaves the issue unresolved, allowing for further debate on the balance between free speech and protecting businesses.

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