Security

Feds demand data on visitors to anti-Trump protest site

Justice Department seeks all information held by web host on a site that helped organize protests against the president.

A limousine burns in downtown Washington following the

A limousine burns in downtown Washington, DC, following the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan. 20.

Stephen J. Boitano/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Justice Department is demanding that a web hosting provider hand over all information it has on a website that helped organize protests against President Donald Trump, including the IP addresses of those who visited the site.

DreamHost on Monday published a search warrant (PDF) approved by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia that grants the Justice Department's request for records from DisruptJ20.org "involving the individuals who participated, planed [sic], organized, or incited the January 20 riot," violent protests that occurred in Washington on Inauguration Day. The site bills itself as "building the framework needed for mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump and planning widespread direct actions to make that happen."

The search warrant demands the IP addresses, emails and physical addresses of the website owners, as well as similar information about the site's users.

"The request from the DOJ 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," DreamHost 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 web hosting provider said. "This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority."

DreamHost has already filed arguments in opposition (PDF) of the Justice Department's motion, arguing the government hadn't provided enough particularity on the information that would be seized. It also fails to describe how information irrelevant to the government's case or cases would be treated.

Approximately 230 protesters were arrested, most on felony rioting charges, on Inauguration Day after some protesters threw objects at people and businesses, destroying storefronts and damaging vehicles. The arrests took place in a four-block stretch of downtown Washington around the time of Trump's swearing-in ceremony. 

A hearing is set on the matter for Friday in Washington, DC.

In March it was revealed that prosecutors were trying to pull data from 100 locked phones seized during arrests made in Washington on Inauguration Day. Officials said they have search warrants to extract data from the phones. 

The FBI and Disrupt20 representatives didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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