DreamHost, a company that hosts anti-Trump protest site Disruptj20.org, will have to turn over computer user information, including email addresses, to the Justice Department, a DC Superior Court judge ruled.
The Justice Department’s original search warrant asked for email addresses, physical addresses, IP addresses and other information about the website’s owners as well as the site’s users. The request was later narrowed. DreamHost argued the information could be used to identify people who merely visited the site and didn’t participate in Inauguration Day protests that turned violent, calling it “investigatory overreach.”
Prosecutors originally obtained a search warrant for the site’s records in July. But DreamHost challenged the request as overly broad and infringing on the rights of free speech and political expression for the site’s approximately 1.3 million visitors.
The government is seeking the data in connection with the ongoing investigation into the rioting that occurred on Inauguration Day.
Morin couched his order as an attempt to balance First Amendment protections with the government’s need for the information on the website.
“We think that having the government review the records, having the government have access to the information of the public and as the court has deemed, the innocent third-party users, having them see that information and identify who these political dissidents were is problematic,” Raymond Aghaian, a lawyer for DreamHost, told.
“When it comes to sensitive First Amendment issues such as this one, it should not be the case where the government gets to rummage through material to determine whether something is valid or not,” Aghaian said.
The judge also said that the government will need to provide two sets of data to the court: one specifying the data not covered by the warrant to be sealed and not reviewed in the future, and another of the data seized and why it constitutes evidence of crime.
On its blog, DreamHost said the ruling was a victory seeing as how “the court further limited the government’s access to this data.”