Protest site visitor information sought by federal prosecutors

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Federal prosecutors are looking for the courts to force DreamHost, Inc., a web-hosting company, to give them information about anyone and everyone who visited an anti-Trump protest website.

The website, disruptj20.org, was a hub for protests and demonstrations planned for Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, across Washington D.C.

The search warrant is for all files and stored records related to the website; ultimately the information for those who visited the website and, ostensibly, participated in the protests.

DreamHost is calling foul.

The company shared this information on their website via a blog post titled We Fight for the Users last Monday. They are fighting the request, and, in the post they called it “unlawful,” they state that,

“The request from the [Justice Department] 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. 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 search warrant was first dated on July 12. Federal prosecutors filed a motion on July 28 looking for a judge to force Dreamhost to obey.

Here is what the search warrant looks like: Superior Court of the District of Columbia Search Warrant

DreamHost filed papers of their own in opposition on August 11.

But this isn’t really anything new. Federal prosecutors have long been looking for information, including social media account information, related to the Inauguration Day arrests and those involved. And DreamHost isn’t the first to resist: Facebook is currently fighting an order that prevents them from giving users notice about search warrants connected to an investigation into potential felony charges. That case is before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the city’s highest local court.

A hearing for the DreamHost case is scheduled for August 18. It will be held before District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz, the judge presiding over criminal cases related to the Inauguration Day arrests.

Over 200 people were arrested during the January 20th demonstrations, and more than a few are now facing criminal charges filed against them. A number of defendants charged with rioting on Inauguration Day are fighting the charges, and Leibovitz has already heard arguments on several motions to dismiss the cases. There’s no word yet on which way the she will rule.