WASHINGTON D.C. — Web hosting provider Dreamhost is challenging a search warrant obtained by the Department of Justice compelling the disclosure of all “information associated with www.disruptj20.org,” an anti-Trump website that the DOJ claims organized a riot in Washington DC on Inauguration Day. Dreamhost argues the warrant fails the Fourth Amendment’s requirement to “particularly describe the person or place to be searched or seized” because it would require handing over the IP addresses of over 1.3 million website visitors, as well as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and other identifiable data about subscribers to the site.
“The Founders outlawed general warrants precisely to prevent governments from harassing their political opponents en masse,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom. “If the DOJ can unmask over a million Internet users simply for visiting a website, without any further alleged connection to criminal activity, then no American is safe to use the Internet to access dissident speech. The fear of being unmasked — and subjected to harassment, or far worse — will chill the speech of millions more.”
“The Fourth Amendment has always been the crown jewel of our civil liberties,” concluded Szóka. “It predates the Constitution and even the Declaration of Independence, originating in the Bill of Rights enacted by Virginia on June 12, 1776. The tyrannical practice of ‘general warrants’ was among the chief sparks of the American Revolution. Dreamhost is now fighting that same battle in the digital realm.”
As part of a larger campaign to defend online free speech, TechFreedom will be releasing more detailed analysis of government efforts to unmask anonymous Internet users, including the cases of Dreamhost (the particularity requirement) and Glassdoor.com (the “bad faith” standard in grand jury subpoenas).
We can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. See our other work on free speech, including:
- Our coalition letter expressing concerns over the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” and its implications for Internet freedom
- Tech Policy Podcast episodes #107 and #116 on digital free speech
TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.