(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The Department of Justice wants to know who’s been visiting an anti-Trump website

One privacy law professor calls the a search warrant against DreamHost an "aggressive overreach"


Taylor Link
August 15, 2017 5:33PM (UTC)

DreamHost, a web hosting company based in Los Angeles, is in a legal dispute with the Department of Justice after receiving a search warrant for data relating to an anti-Trump website. The DOJ requested the identifying information of over 1.3 million users who visited the website disruptj20.org. DreamHost has so far refused to comply with the order.

The request stems from the DOJ's quest to find people who attended the Inauguration Day protests in Washington this January. More than 200 protesters were arrested that day. Six police officers were injured, and extensive property damage was reported in the city. Disruptj20.org was a website that helped coordinate the protests.

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After DreamHost rebuffed the DOJ's request, the government filed a motion in court to show that the web hosting provider was not complying with the warrant. DreamHost filed its own response to the motion, arguing that the government asking for "all records or other information" relating to the website was far too broad.

"[The search warrant] fails to identify with the required particularity what will be seized by the government," the filed response said.

Paul Ohm, a privacy law professor at Georgetown Law, sided with DreamHost in the legal battle.

"I am very glad that DreamHost is fighting this fight. The warrant strikes me as an aggressive overreach," Ohm wrote on Twitter Tuesday. "I hope the judge will narrow it."

Ohm suggested that the judge in this case should look at what some courts do with warrants for hard drives. Judges take extra precautions to "avoid overbreadth."

"I think the danger of overbreadth is so much higher with an entire website rather than a single person's hard drive," Ohm said. "So at the very least, the judge should aggressively superintend what is permitted to be disclosed, if anything."

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The DOJ is toeing a fine line on DreamHost and disruptj20.org's First and Fourth Amendment rights. It's yet to be seen what lengths the DOJ will go to crackdown on the white supremacist protesters at Charlottesville last weekend.


Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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Anti-trump Department Of Justice Doj First Amendment Fourth Amendment Law Privacy Protests Web Hosting

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