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Anti-Trump website says Justice Department is seeking information on visitors

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Los Angeles based website Dreamhost, used to organize protests against President Trump said in a blog post the Justice Department has asked it to relinquish information about the site’s visitors, but it believes this request is unconstitutional.

DreamHost said in the blog post that Justice has demanded it hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses, as well as contact information and the email content and photos of thousands of users of one of its customer sites.

“For the past several months, DreamHost has been working with the Department of Justice to comply with legal process, including a Search Warrant 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 linformation available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors,” the website said. The requested information would be all records and information related to the website and its owner as well as anything that could identify the website’s subscribers.

“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. This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.”

DreamHost said it has challenged the DOJ pointing out its unconstitutionality, but those efforts have done little to thwart the inquiry.

“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 in the Washington, D.C. Superior Court, asking for an order to compel  DreamHost to produce the records,” the website said.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday, August 18 on the issue.

The Hill reported that it contacted the Justice Department who referred them to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, DC. The U.S. attorney’s office refused to comment but did provide them with the filings related to the case. DreamHost’s general counsel, Chris Ghazarian, said in opposing the warrant: “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 Search Warrant, which was dated July 12, says that authorities will seize any information constituting violations of D.C. code governing riots that involve individuals connected to the protests on Inauguration Day, The Hill reported.

Karen Goldfarb

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