The Department of Justice wants to know the IP addresses of more than a million visitors to a website that organizes protests against Donald Trump — a request the website’s host has called “a clear abuse of government authority.”
The site in question is #DisruptJ20, which is hosted by DreamHost. DreamHost said it has been working with the Department of Justice for several months on the request.
“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,” the company wrote in a blog post published Monday.
“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’s post continued. “That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.”
The search warrant, dated July 12, says the Department of Justice’s request is connected to the protests of President Trump’s inauguration, which #DisruptJ20 played a role in helping to organize. DreamHost said it has no additional insight into why the Department of Justice has issued the warrant because the affidavit records are sealed.
According to the warrant, the government will seize any information connected to the Jan. 20 protestors that constitutes “fruits, evidence and instrumentalities” of violations to Washington D.C.’s code governing riots. More than 200 Inauguration Day protesters were arrested and indicted on felony rioting charges.
President Trump has been known to harshly attack his critics, and he has proven, on more than one occasion, to have something of a fragile ego. However, the reach of this warrant is frighteningly broad.
“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,” said Chris Ghazarian, DreamHost’s general legal counsel, in a legal argument opposing the DOJ’s request.
More than 200 people were indicted on felony rioting charges in connection with the protests in Washington on Jan. 20.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday in Washington.