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Justice Department demands information on anti-Trump protesters from DreamHost

Search warrant calls for turning over 1.3 million IP addresses and other identifying info.
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The Justice Department is demanding IP addresses and other identifying information on the organizers of the anti-Trump Inauguration Day protests. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A web-hosting platform is fighting a Justice Department search warrant that would turn over information on over a million activists who helped organize protests against President Donald Trump on Inauguration Day.

It would mean giving the government 1.3 million IP addresses of visitors to the website, as well as names, addresses, e-mail addresses, photos, payment information and domain registration details, the company said.

“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,” the company said in a blog post announcing the legal battle Monday. “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.”

At the center of the requests is disruptj20.org, a website hosted by DreamHost that helped anti-Trump activists "building the framework needed for mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump."

The Justice Department’s reasons for the investigation are unclear —  affidavits are sealed, but more than 200 people were indicted on felony rioting charges following the historic protests of Trump’s administration.

DreamHost said it has “been working with the Department of Justice for months to comply with legal process,” but called the warrant a “highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution.”

Prosecutors obtained a search warrant for the records on July 12 and are now asking a federal judge to force the company to turn over the information. The company is challenging the request on the grounds that it is overly vague. A hearing is scheduled for Friday in Washington.

The warrant demands “all files” in DreamHost’s possession including on “subscribers” to disruptj20.org and people who “participated, planned, organized, or incited the Inauguration Day protests.”

“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 said in a legal filing arguing against the warrant. 

In an earlier filing, the Justice Department said, "DreamHost's opinion of the breadth of the warrant does not provide it with a basis for refusing to comply with the Court's search warrant and begin an immediate production."

The U.S. Attorney's office in Washington told CNN on Tuesday that beyond its earlier court filings, it had no further comment.

 
 
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