Justice Dept. demands information on visitors to website that organized anti-Trump protests

Justice Dept. demands information on visitors to website that organized anti-Trump protests

Published
Thousands of people peacefully protested on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, in Washington, D.C., but some demonstrations turned violent. The Justice Department is seeking information about 1.3 million visitors to a website that helped organize the protests. (Loree Lewis/TMN)

WASHINGTON – A web host provider is fighting back against a search warrant from the U.S. Department of Justice that demands the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited a website that helped organize protests against President Donald Trump on Inauguration Day, according to court filings published on the company’s blog Monday.

The Justice Department also wants email addresses of visitors to DisruptJ20 and other personal data, including credit-card information. The July 20 search warrant also seeks photos of thousands of people that the site collected.

DisruptJ20 contains general information about civil disobedience and political protests, and advertised several events in Washington. The site was last updated on Feb. 4.

The federal government has charged more than 200 people with felony rioting or destruction of property in connection to the inaugural protests. The Justice Department alleges that some suspects had ties to DisruptJ20. However, it is seeking information on not just those suspects but on anyone who 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,” a blog post published on DreamHost’s website on Monday.

The Los Angeles-based company said it challenged the Justice Department’s warrant through “reason, logic, and legal process” but the government responded by filing a motion in Washington, D.C. Superior Court on July 20 asking for an order to compel DreamHost to turn over the records.

DreamHost said its legal counsel assisted by a Beverly Hills, Calif-based law firm filed an opposition to the Justice Department’s motion with the court last Friday. A hearing is scheduled for this Friday.

ACLU National also is questioning the constitutionality of the government’s request. “The Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from engaging in overbroad fishing expeditions, and this appears to be a classic one,” the ACLU said in a tweet on Tuesday afternoon.

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