The Justice Department has been investigating certain violent protests that occurred during the inaugural festivities for President Trump and has indicted 200 people on felony rioting charges in connection with property damage and assault during the inauguration. For example, white nationalist Richard Spencer was punched during an interview on the streets of D.C.
The Justice Department is focusing on the role of disruptj20.org, a website that was a clearinghouse of protest activity during the inauguration and the Women’s March that followed. The Justice Department is seeking records on all visitors to the site, including all communications, from its hosting provider DreamHost. The request, which covers all visitors on all dates, is extremely broad with no apparent effort made to minimize its First Amendment impact. This would appear to be an attempt by the new administration to tell its opponents that “we are watching you.”
DreamHost objected to the breadth of the warrant and the Justice Department filed a motion to compel compliance.
DreamHost, with support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has filed an Opposition which argues:
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.
DreamHost also raises questions as to whether the state court warrant from the District of Columbia can reach data stored in Oregon.
In a blog post, DreamHost stressed
The internet was founded — and continues to survive, in the main — on its democratizing ability to facilitate a free exchange of ideas. Internet users have a reasonable expectation that they will not get swept up in criminal investigations simply by exercising their right to political speech against the government.
We intend to take whatever steps are necessary to support and shield these users from what is, in our view, a very unfocused search and an unlawful request for their personal information.
Their brief is below.