August 14, 2017
by Morgan Chalfant
The Department of Justice has requested information on visitors to a website used to organize protests against President Trump, the Los Angeles-based Dreamhost said in a blog post published on Monday.
Dreamhost, a web hosting provider, said that it has been working with the Department of Justice for several months on the request, which believes goes too far under the Constitution.
DreamHost claimed that the complying with the request from the Justice Department would amount to handing over roughly 1.3 million visitor IP addresses to the government, in addition to contact information, email content and photos of thousands of visitors to the website, which was involved in organizing protests against Trump on Inauguration Day.
“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,” DreamHost wrote in the blog post on Monday. “That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.”
When contacted, the Justice Department directed The Hill to the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment but provided the filings related to the case.
The company is currently challenging the request. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday in Washington.
“In essence, the Search Warrant not only aims to identify the political dissidents of the current administration, but attempts to identify and understand what content each of these dissidents viewed on the website,” the company’s general counsel, Chris Ghazarian, said in a legal argument opposing the request.
The web provider published a search warrant issued by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia that asks for records and information related to the website and its owner, along with information that could be used to identify subscribers of the website.
This includes “names, addresses, telephone numbers and other identifiers, e-mail addresses, business information, the length of service (including start date), means and source of payment for services (including any credit card or bank account number), and information about any domain name registration.”
The warrant, dated July 12, says that authorities will seize any information constituting violations of D.C. code governing riots that involve individuals connected to the protests on Inauguration Day.
More than 200 people were indicted on felony rioting charges in connection with the protests in Washington on Jan. 20.