A web host called “DreamHost” has gone to court to challenge a demand from the Trump Administration for information on more than 1 million visitors to an anti-Trump website. The demand would covered 1.3 million IP addresses and raises highly troubling free speech and associational concerns. At a minimum, the demand appears wildly too broad and could easily chill political speech for those who oppose this Administration.
DreamHost was hit by the demand after the Justice Department filed a motion in late July in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. According to the host’s filing, the resulting July 12th warrant demands “names, addresses, telephone numbers and other identifiers, e-mail addresses, business information, the length of service (including start date), means and source of payment for services (including any credit card or bank account number), and information about any domain name registration.” The company had a valid stated concern:
The request from the [Justice Department] 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. 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.The website helped coordinate demonstrations against President Trump in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day in January. Some of those protesters turned violent and have faced indictments. It is clear that the government has a right to investigate those individuals but the government also has a duty to tailor such demands in light of the powerful free speech interests involved in such demonstrations. I see no evidence of such tailoring in this demand and the court should give the warrant close scrutiny in light of its obvious impact on political speech.
A hearing is scheduled in Washington before District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Lynn Leibovitz on Friday about the information request.
Here is the company’s filing: DreamHost filing the United States response to the filing: DreamHost/US filing.
Reprinted with permission from JonathanTurley.org.