The Justice Department has requested data on 1.3 million IP addresses that visited the Trump “resistance” protest-organizing website “disruptj20.org,” which encouraged protests that in some cases devolved into violent riots during the inauguration of President Trump.
Website hosting service DreamHost revealed the Justice Department’s request in a blog post on Monday, which described the request as an “abuse of government authority.”
“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,” they claimed. “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 information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors.”
“The request from the DOJ 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,” DreamHost continued. “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.”
After calling the request “a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority,” DreamHost revealed that the Department of Justice filed a motion “asking for an order to compel DreamHost to produce the records,” prompting DreamHost to fight against it.
“The internet was founded — and continues to survive, in the main — on its democratizing ability to facilitate a free exchange of ideas. Internet users have a reasonable expectation that they will not get swept up in criminal investigations simply by exercising their right to political speech against the government,” they concluded in their blog post. “We intend to take whatever steps are necessary to support and shield these users from what is, in our view, a very unfocused search and an unlawful request for their personal information.”
In January, DisruptJ20 encouraged protesters to “take to the streets and protest, blockade, disrupt, intervene, sit in, walk out, rise up, and make more noise and good trouble than the establishment can bear.”
One terror-affiliated group was revealed to be part of the DisruptJ20 coalition, as well as Antifa blog “It’s Going Down,” which has previously doxed the personal information of Republican college students and called for violence against Trump supporters. More than 200 people were arrested during the riots.