The Department of Justice is looking for information on visitors of a website that is used to organize protests against President Donald Trump and his administration, a hosting website said on Monday.
The DOJ issued DreamHost, a Los Angeles-based web hosting company, a search warrant seeking 1.3 million visitor IP address and contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people that visited disruptj20.org.
DreamHost said it is approached regularly by law enforcement to provide information on customers who are subject to criminal investigations, and those requests are looked over by its legal department. However, the latest demand seemed “highly untargeted,” the company wrote in a blog post.
“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,” the company wrote. “That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind. This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.”
DreamHost said it challenged the DOJ on its warrant, and in response, the Justice Department filed a motion in superior court asking for a court order to compel the company to hand over records on its customers.
The company said it is working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy organization, to help with “professional support.”
A hearing on the legal dispute between DreamHost and the DOJ is scheduled for Friday in Washington, D.C.
In a blog post, DreamHost said fighting the warrant was important because the internet was founded as a way for people to freely exchange ideas without fear of being monitored unnecessarily.
“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,” the company 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.”