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A web-hosting and domain registration company is fighting a Justice Department warrant for records from a website that helped organize protests against President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
According to DreamHost, the Justice Department has filed a motion to compel the company to release 1.3 million visitors’ IP addresses from disruptj20.org, a website belonging to a group of activists “building the framework needed for mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump.”
In addition to visitor logs, the Justice Department has demanded contact information, emails, and photos, DreamHost said in a blog post.
As DreamHost noted, the Justice Department’s request raises alarms because the information could potentially be used to identify people who were exercising their Constitutional right of free speech to protest Trump.
“That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind,” the web-hosting company said on its blog. “This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.”
The Justice Department’s warrant argues that officials could seize all information relating to violations of Washington D.C.’s code that stemmed from the riots that ensued during the day of Trump’s inauguration, according to The Hill. More than 200 people had been indicted on felony rioting charges in connection to the riots in downtown D.C., CNN reported.
The Justice Department has since called DreamHost’s reluctance to surrender its records “misguided” and that it lacked sufficient basis. The agency also argued that DreamHost’s concern for users’ privacy “lacks merit.”
“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,” DreamHost wrote. “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.”
A court hearing between DreamHost’s counsel and the Justice Department is set for August 18 in D.C.