The US government recently issued a warrant against a website-hosting company, so they can uncover information about the 1.3 million users who visited www.disruptj20.org—a website used to coordinate protests against President Trump’s inauguration. However, DreamHost, the company in question, is going to put up a fight.
The warrant, which was issued in July, would apply to DreamHost’s owners and operators—as well as the IP addresses of everyone who visited it, the date and time of their visit and what operating system they used. The hosting company is pushing back, saying the warrant is unconstitutional. Sources say the warrant was made public on Monday, when DreamHost revealed their plans to take the government to court.
Chris Ghazarian, DreamHost’s general counsel, commented, “This specific case and this specific warrant are pure prosecutorial overreach by a highly politicized department of justice under [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is advising DreamHost, has also described the warrant as a “fishing expedition.”
“You should be concerned that anyone should be targeted simply for visiting a website,” Ghazarian added.
Sources report Ghazarian also noted that DreamHost initially handed over “limited, customer information about the owner of the website” when the government sent them a grand-jury subpoena—just a week after the protests. However, he says, the government issued a significantly broader search warrant in July.
As sources explain, wide-reaching warrants are sometimes used when a site features prohibited content–e.g., cases sexually abused children. But as senior staff attorney Mark Rumold commented, “This [the website] is pure first-amendment advocacy—the type of advocacy the first amendment was designed to protect and promote.”
Many people feel the action being taken against DreamHost is a prime example of government overreach. Sources say a hearing is scheduled for Friday. What will come next?