15 August 2017 at 10:12:05 AM
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 allinformation available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors.....
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.
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.
But prosecutors in DC are still at it. And they’re still using unconstitutional methods to pursue their investigation.
This time they served a search warrant on hosting provider DreamHost that would require the company to turn over essentially all information on a website it hosts, www.disruptj20.org—a site that was dedicated to organizing and planning the protest.
Did you click on that link? Well, that’s apparently information the government wants to know. In just one example of the staggering overbreadth of the search warrant, it would require DreamHost to turn over the IP logs of all visitors to the site. Millions of visitors—activists, reporters, or you (if you clicked on the link)—would have records of their visits turned over to the government. The warrant also sought production of all emails associated with the account and unpublished content, like draft blog posts and photos.
No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible. But the Fourth Amendment was designed to prohibit fishing expeditions like this. Those concerns are especially relevant here, where DOJ is investigating a website that served as a hub for the planning and exercise of First Amendment-protected activities.
DreamHost did the right thing: it stood up for its users. It offered the government a chance to narrow the scope of the warrant. And when the government refused, DreamHost went to court.
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