DOJ Seeks 1.3M IP Addresses Associated With J20 Protests

| Resist!

Above Photo: Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)

For the past several months, DreamHost has been working with the Department of Justice to comply with legal process, including a Search Warrant (PDF) seeking information about one of our customers’ websites.

At the center of the requests is disruptj20.org, a website that organized participants of political protests against the current United States administration. While we have no insight into the affidavit for the search warrant (those records are sealed), the DOJ has recently asked DreamHost to provide all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors.

disruptRecords Requests

DreamHost, like many online service providers, is approached by law enforcement regularly to provide information about customers who may be the subject of criminal investigations. These types of requests are not uncommon; our legal department reviews and scrutinizes each request and, when necessary, rejects and challenges vague or faulty orders.
denied-768x351
You would be shocked to see just how many of these challenges we’re obligatedto mount every year!

Chris Ghazarian, our General Counsel, has taken issue with this particular search warrant for being a highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution.

Demand for Information

The request from the DOJ demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 millionvisitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visitedthe website. (Our customer has also been notified of the pending warrant on the account.)

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.

protest-768x315This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.

As we do in all such cases where the improper collection of data is concerned, we challenged the Department of Justice on its warrant and attempted to quash its demands for this information through reason, logic, and legal process.

Instead of responding to our inquiries regarding the overbreadth of the warrant, the DOJ filed a motion (PDF) in the Washington, D.C. Superior Court, asking for an order to compel DreamHost to produce the records.

Our Opposition

Last Friday Mr. Ghazarian, with the help of his legal team and outside counsel, filed legal arguments in opposition (PDF) of the DOJ’s request for access to this trove of personally identifiable information.

This motion is our latest salvo in what has become a months-long battle to protect the identities of thousands of unwitting internet users. Mr. Ghazarian will attend a court hearing on the matter on August 18 in Washington, D.C.

eff-stack-72dpi
We’ve been working closely with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and their counsel throughout this process. They’ve been nothing but supportive and helpful throughout, and we’re honored to have them in our corner. While the EFF is not representing us in this case, they understand our arguments and have been lending professional support.

Why Bother?

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.

  • Arakiba

    I’ll go to that website right now, I want to be counted among the people resisting the dangerous man in the White House!

  • mwildfire

    It strikes me that in so many battles like this one, the resources of activist and activist groups are tied up, sidelined from what they might otherwise be doing. It’s good to see the fightback, but troubling to think how easy it is to get good people like these put out of the main action because they have to fight a thousand little arsons.

  • kevinzeese

    That’s the spirit. I know we are already on the site since we organized anti-corporate trade protests at the inauguration with J20 organizers.

  • DHFabian

    At which point Democrats in Congress rose to make the statement…