On 20th January, the US president Donald Trump was inaugurated after winning the elections, which was accompanied by violent protests and demonstrations in DC. The protests didn’t stop regardless of the arrest of hundreds of activists. The website, disruptj20.org, was formed to be a platform of communication for the anti-trump activists.
On 17th July, a web hosting company ‘Dreamhost’ was served with a warrant by the department of justice (DoJ) on the basis that Dreamhost was related to the website named disruptj20.org. The site was used to coordinate protests and acts of civil disobedience on 20th January, the day when Trump was inaugurated. The warrant covers personnel who own and operate the site as well as all the 1.3million visitors and seeks to retrieve all their IP addresses, date and time of visit, what browser they were using and their operating systems. This spread an alarming note for people who had expressed any political views or comments or speeches on the website. It is a small step from getting the list of IP addresses to knowing the visitor’s identity. Chris Ghazarian, the general counsel of Dreamhost, mentioned that it is a matter of utmost concern that anyone should be targeted for merely visiting a website.
Dreamhost has given very limited information of the website visitors and the owner of the website to the Trump government when it first received a grand jury subpoena just a week after J20 protests. In April, the Trump government had violently prosecuted more than 217 activists when the US attorney’s office filed an indictment with identical crimes, which included felony rioting. But the prosecutors at DC were not yet satisfied. They came back with a much broader and staggering warrant demanding the IP addresses of anyone who ever visited the site. Though logs of the IP addresses don’t uniquely identify specific users they can be traced back to physical addresses if proper tools were not used to disguise it.
The warrant was made public on Monday when Dreamhost decided to challenge the Trump government and announced its plans to take the matter to court. Dreamhost, as a reply to the warrant, wrote a blog titled “We fight for the Users”, and pointed out that the expression of any speech or comment is protected and promoted by the first amendment of the Constitution.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an advisor to Dreamhost branded the warrant as unconstitutional and a ‘fishing expedition’. No other legitimate justification can be conceived other than casting the net as widely as possible to justify a million user logs, commented Mark Rumold, senior staff attorney of the EFF. Dreamhost argued in the court session that the warrant was unreasonably broad and violated the fourth amendment as well as the first amendment. It would make innocent people afraid to view or take part in any discussions at any political websites. The government countered that these constitutional concerns are ‘inaccurate’.
Finally the court today has ordered to turn the information of the website owner and on which platform it has used to plan the protest against on inauguration day of Presedent Donald J. Trump. The government claims that Disruptj20.com violated law by communicating among the focused group to people who’s intention is to create violence.
At present after the ruling, Dreamhost is positive as of now and considering it as victory for the company as the warrant for arrest has narrowed down and company would give the customers data only after few days. Dreamhost is positive as they are getting support form the American Civil Liberties Union and many other organizations and many individuals morally supporting for the civil rights. If the company is positive on the stand of civil rights and wins the case, it will not provide any information to the government.
Article by Sushmoy Mallik