Justice Department Goes Fishing for Protesters' Web-Browsing Details


"The Fourth Amendment was created to prohibit fishing expeditions like this", the EFF wrote in a separate blog post.

It's very common for tech companies, including hosting services, to get requests for data from law enforcement. DreamHost said it has no additional insight into why the Department of Justice has issued the warrant because the affidavit records are sealed.

"What we have is a sweeping request for every single file we have" in relation to DisruptJ20.org, said Chris Ghazarian, general counsel for DreamHost, which hosts the site.

What do the feds want?

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.

That's not just content creators or subscribers; that's everyone who ever typed the address into their browser or clicked the link on Facebook. This equates to some 1.3 million.

It said the IP addresses, in addition to the contact details, emails, and photographs of thousands of people - which were also requested - were too sensitive to be released.

A DOJ warrant seeks information about visitors to a website promoting Inauguration Day protests.

The site in question, disruptj20.org, is a website that is a political organization with the aim of protesting and disrupting events during the Donald Trump's presidential run. The government launched the probe after detaining hundreds of protestors on 20 January 2017.

More than 200 people were indicted on felony rioting charges in connection with the protests in Washington on January 20.

Numerous cases are still ongoing, and in various stages of investigation and prosecution.

The government has made no effort whatsoever to limit the warrant to actual evidence of any particular crime. "This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority".

This, the company says, is its standard procedure.

DreamHost, based in Los Angeles, said it has been engaged in a behind-the-scenes and months-long battle with the Justice Department over the search warrant. "Frankly I'm glad DreamHost is pushing back on it".

Dreamhost balked. And after inconclusive negotiations over the search warrant, the assistant United States attorney handling the matter, John W. Borchert, asked another superior court judge, Lynn Leibovitz, who is overseeing the rioting cases, to order Dreamhost to show cause for why it was not complying.