An Internet hosting company is fighting a Federal search warrant demanding the identities of 1.3 million people who visited an anti-Trump website.
In a Monday blog post, DreamHost revealed the Justice Department had secured a warrant for the identities of 1.3 million visitors to “DisruptJ20.org,” a website which helped organize the often-violent protests of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
But rather than demand Internet records of named suspects and charged defendants, the warrant asks for identifying information on all visitors to the site.
Is the warrant a justified part of a Federal investigation, or is it a violation of the First and Fourth Amendment, which protect Americans’ right to privacy and expression?
For the past several months, DreamHost has been working with the Department of Justice to comply with legal process, including a Search Warrant (PDF) seeking information about one of our customers’ websites.
At the center of the requests is disruptj20.org, a website that organized participants of political protests against the current United States administration. While we have no insight into the affidavit for the search warrant (those records are sealed), the DOJ has recently asked DreamHost to provide all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors…
…The request from the DOJ demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website. (Our customer has also been notified of the pending warrant on the account.)
That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.
This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.
Is this overreach by the Justice Department? Or is a justified part of a criminal investigation?
Let us know in the comments!