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Department of Justice’s Demand for Information on Dissenters Goes to Court

This is a violation of free speech.

(Photo: OlafSpeier / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

The Justice Department will attempt on Friday to defend a warrant requiring an internet host to turn over 1.3 million IP addresses of visitors to a website critical of the Trump administration.

Dreamhost, the subject of the DOJ order, called it a “clear abuse of government authority.” The company has been fighting the warrant for months leading up to Friday’s court date on the matter.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the IP addresses of anyone who visited, a website hosted by Dreamhost, as well as the website’s database records, and the personal information of administrators and thousands of individuals who interacted with the site.

Disrupt J20 organized one of the many Inauguration Day protests against the incoming Trump administration. Law enforcement officials believe the group was involved in one particular action that allegedly led to the injury of six police officers and $100,000 in property damage in downtown Washington, DC.

After initially receiving the DOJ’s data request, Dreamhost requested the department narrow the scope of its warrant. US officials, instead, filed a motion in DC Superior Court forcing Dreamhost to comply with the warrant. Last week, the company responded by filing it’s own legal arguments against the sweeping DOJ order.

In a blog post on its website, Dreamhost argued that the information the government is seeking “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 company added.

The digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been providing “professional support” to the web host in its legal battle against the DOJ.

“No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible,” said EFF senior staff attorney Mark Rumold.

Outside the digital realm, hundreds of people are still facing serious legal jeopardy stemming from the Inauguration Day protests. More than 200 people were charged with felony rioting, and could face up to a decade in prison.

The Washington Post reported in April that DC police had actually infiltrated the group ahead of its planned January protest.

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