DOJ taps Web hosting company for documents about anti-Trump protests

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A Los Angeles based web hosting provider claims the Department of Justice is requesting information about the visitors to a website used to organize protests against President Donald J. Trump.  According to a blog post published Monday, web provider DreamHost said it’s been working with the Department of Justice for several months regarding the site.

DreamHost complains that if they comply with the Department Of Justice’s request, they will need to hand over roughly 1.3 million visitor IP addresses to the government. Additionally, they’ll have to provide contact information, email content and photos of thousands of visitors to disruptj20.org, a website involved in organizing protests against Donald J. 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. “That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.”

DreamHost is challenging the request, gearing up for a hearing on the matter Friday in Washington DC. They published a purported search warrant, issued by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, requesting records and information related to the website and its owner.

According to the document, the information 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.”

Dated July 12, the warrant states the “seizure” consists of all information that constitutes “fruits, evidence and instrumentalities of violations of D.C. Code § 22-1322 involving the individuals who participated, planed [sic], organized, or incited the January 20 riot, relating to the development, publishing, advertisement, access, use, administration or maintenance of [www.disruptj20.com] . . . .”

“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.

On the day of Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, hundreds were indicted on felony rioting charges. During the event, protesters smashed windows and started fires. Police officers said the riot started around 10 a.m. the morning of the inauguration, when one group of protesters were seen tearing trash cans and newspaper boxes off of sidewalks, then dragging them into the center of the street and lighting them on fire.

The Department of Justice directed DreamHost to the United States attorney’s office in Washington D.C. for comments about the request.

ABOUT DREAMHOST
According to the company’s website…
The year was 1997. The scene was a college dorm room. Four friends with a love of technology, open-source software, and a strong desire to help people get online banded together to create DreamHost. Built on open-source technology with a commitment to customer success, DreamHost provides domain registration, web hosting and cloud services to 1.5 million sites, blogs and applications, and supports over 400,000 web designers, developers, content creators, small businesses and entrepreneurs with the power of the Open Web.

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