Dreamhost, a web hosting provider based in Los Angeles is resisting a US government search warrant to turn over data about everyone who visited a website used to coordinate anti-Trump protests.
According to DreamHost complying with the Department of Justice request would mean handing over about 1.3 million visitor IP addresses to the government. In addition to the IP addresses, they would also need to hand over contact information, email
content and photos of thousands of visitors to the website in a blog post published on Monday.
The L.A.-based web hosting service received the government’s warrant on July 20, and objected to it the next day, The Hill reports. A website used to organize inauguration protests on January 20, 2017, in Washington, DC is now the target of a request for data by the U.S. government that is unusual—and, says one legal analyst, “chilling.” DreamHost claimed that the complying with the request from the Justice Department would amount to handing over roughly 1.3 million visitor IP addresses to the government, in addition to contact information, email content and photos of thousands of visitors to the website, which was involved in organizing protests against 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, that should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.”
Authorities have already pursued legal action against about 200 protesters, and they are now seeking information from DreamHost that should allow them to identify other protest participants – and anyone else who showed an interest in the demos or simply passed by the site.
The company is currently challenging the request. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday in Washington.
“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.
The Department of Justice initially used subpoenas to DreamHost to seek subscriber information about who ran the site. That’s fairly straightforward. But then they doubled down. They obtained a search warrant for an extremely broad array of data related to the site, including all stored records of access to the site or communications with the site.