The DOJ Wants the IP Addresses of All Visitors to Anti-Trump Website
On July 17, the Department of Justice issued a search warrant to the website hosting company DreamHost in order to gain access to the IP addresses of people who visited www.disruptj20.org. The website coordinated protests of Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20.
On Monday, DreamHost made the warrant public, as it plans to challenge the DOJ in court. Privacy advocates call the government’s request an unconstitutional “fishing expedition,” looking for people who are critical of the president. The warrant requested access to the website founder’s information, as well as the IP addresses of about 1.3 million people who visited it.
Now people are outraged that the government is targeting people visiting a website that is critical of the president, which is not a crime. “This specific case and this specific warrant are pure prosecutorial overreach by a highly politicized department of justice under [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions,” said Chris Ghazarian, general counsel for DreamHost.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) August 15, 2017
The people behind DreamHost are determined to fight the warrant in court. Ghazarian said they are the gatekeepers between the government and all the people visiting the website: “We want to keep them protected.”
“No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible. But the Fourth Amendment was designed to prohibit fishing expeditions like this,” wrote Mark Rumold of the Electric Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that is committed to defending civil liberties in the digital world.
The government has tried to clamp down on online dissent before. In March, Customs and Border Protection tried to get Twitter to reveal who was the author of the Twitter account @ALT_USCIS, an anonymous account not affiliated with the official USCIS, which tweeted about the new immigration policies and claimed to be run by rogue USCIS employees.
But Twitter refused and instead filed a lawsuit against the government. Twitter called the request “unlawful” and said that it “would have a grave chilling effect on the speech of that account in particular and on the many other ‘alternative agency’ accounts that have been created to voice dissent to government policies.” The CBP then dropped its request. We’ll have to see if the DOJ will do the same.