A web hosting provider has objected to the federal government’s request that it hand over what it characterized as detailed records on the more than 1 million visitors to a anti-Trump website that promoted protests of President Trump’s inauguration.
In a blog post on Monday, DreamHost detailed its objections to the government’s request.
“The request from the [Department of Justice] demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website,” the company wrote. “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.”
The government asserts that a website hosted by DreamHost, disruptj20.org, “was used in the development, planning, advertisement, and organization of a violent riot that occurred in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2017.” A search warrant details the request for “fruits, evidence and instrumentalities of violations” of a Washington, D.C. law against the incitement of riots.
Among other objections, DreamHost responded in a filing on Friday that the government’s demand of “all files” related to the website “would allow the government to identify the specific computers used to visit the website, and what specifically was viewed on the website.” That, DreamHost said, violated website visitors’ First and Fourth Amendment rights, and other legal protections.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia provided TPM with recent case filings, but declined to comment further.
Both parties were originally scheduled to attend a hearing on Friday before Judge Lynn Leibovitz on the government’s motion to compel DreamHost’s cooperation. However, Bill Miller, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, notified TPM in an email Friday that the hearing had been postponed, and would now be presided over by Chief Judge Robert E. Morin.
The presidential inauguration was marked by disruption and unrest, particularly from so-called “black bloc” and anti-fascist protesters who destroyed property and created a headache for District police. However, the law enforcement reaction to protesters was extreme: Hundreds have been indicted on felony rioting charges, including multiple journalists observing the protests.
This post has been updated.