A Bethel Park man joined a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against President Donald Trump for blocking Twitter users from his account on the social media website.
“I firmly believe the president violated the Constitution by blocking me on Twitter,” said Joseph Papp, 42, in a statement provided by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute.
The free-speech group filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on behalf of Papp and six others.
Papp, who could not be reached, discovered that Trump blocked him after he sent two replies to Trump’s Twitter post of his weekly address on June 3, according to the free-speech group. Papp’s first reply was harmless enough, saying only, “Greetings from Pittsburgh, Sir.” But the second one was accompanied by the hashtag #fakeleader and asked, “Why didn’t you attend your #PittsburghNotParis rally in D.C., Sir?”
In his statement, Papp said he has been a registered Republican for 10 years.
“I didn’t join this lawsuit for political reasons nor did I try to troll or provoke the president. I wanted to partake in the conversation,” Papp said.
“Being blocked by President Trump might be a badge of honor for some people, but when it happened to me, I only felt a deep sense of unease,” Papp said. “Everyone being able to see the president’s tweets feels vital to democracy. Now I’m completely cut off from seeing President Trump’s statements in real-time.”
Although people blocked by Trump could view his tweets by logging out of their accounts, Knight Institute executive director Jameel Jaffer said he thinks it’s an unconstitutional for the president to exclude anyone from viewing them.
“President Trump’s Twitter account has become an important source of news and information about the government, and an important forum of speech by, to and about the president. The First Amendment applies to this digital forum in the same way it applies to town halls and open school board meetings. The White House acts unlawfully when it excludes people from this forum simply because they’ve disagreed with the president,” Jaffer said.
The White House did not comment.
Papp, who describes himself in his Twitter biography as an anti-doping advocate, cyclist, author and speaker, said he did not want to create a new Twitter account because his existing one at @joepabike “stands for my identity.”
“Identity for me is too important to discard,” said Papp, a former professional cyclist who pleaded guilty for running an online distribution network for human growth hormone and the blood booster erythropoietin .
“As an anti-doping activist today, I’ve spent years re-establishing and rehabilitating my name and reputation. If the only way to view my president’s tweets is to disassociate myself from my identity, and the only way to reply to him is not under my own name, I wouldn’t do it,” Papp said.
Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer.
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