The web hosting company DreamHost was ordered to release some data associated with an anti-Trump protest website to federal prosecutors. In order to remove public’s concerns about the government constraining electronic political activism and suppressing freedom of speech, Robert E. Morin—a Superior Court judge, enables DreamHost to turn over records for the website only between October 2016 and January 2017.
The Los Angeles-based web hosting firm was reportedly fighting the Depart of Justice over the request to expose all information of visitors to the anti-Trump website called Distrupt20.org, including 1.3 million IP addresses, contact information, as well as unpublished images, drafts, HTTP requests, and metadata from its search request. DreamHost pushed back the request and believed that the information could be abused for identifying the 1.3 million individuals who used the website to exercise or express political speech, and this absolutely violates the Constitution’s First Amendment.
The Department of Justice then asked the Washington, D.C. Superior Court to issue an order to compel DreamHost to produce the records. Later, the web hosting company also filed a response in opposition to the government’s motion.
In Thursday’s ruling, the DC Superior Court judge ordered DreamHost to comply with the amended search warrant, which presenting a scaled-down request to seeking only evidence of criminal or violent activity being planned for Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017. In other words, the prosecutors will have no rights to access any information produced by DreamHost that is not in scope of the warrant unless there is a further court order. To ensure information outside the scope of the request of the government is protected and sealed, Judge Morin specified that they will closely monitor the whole process of the government sifting and vetting the raw information.
Although DreamHost expressed its willingness to abide by the modified request, it said that the government possessing the information and being able to sift through the information essentially is problematic. It is impossible for the court-ordered safeguards to assuage visitors’ fears of the government starting cracking down on political expression on the internet.
It never rains but it pours. The web host DreamHost has fallen to a distributed denial of service attack last week, when it briefly hosted the website Punished Stormer—the newest manifestation of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. The website had been kicked out by several web hosting company, such as GoDaddy and Google. It was popped up last week on DreamHost with a new domain name, PunishedStormer.com. DreamHost no surprisingly got caught in alt-right crossfire when it announced to ask the website to leave for the reason of violating the TOS.