Web Host Asked to handover IP Addresses of Anti-Trump Website Visitors

In total, the government of United States is asking for 1.3 million users who visited the website – RIP Privacy!

The website www.disruptj20.org turned out to be the ultimate platform for anti-Trump protestors at the time when US president Donald Trump was being inaugurated. Reportedly, around 1.3 million people visited this website to vent out and register their protest.

Now the US government demands an investigation to be conducted against owners and visitors of this website. The US Justice Department issued a warrant against the company hosting this website. The department requires information to be revealed of “the individuals who participated, planned, organized, or incited the January 20 riot.” It seems like the campaign launched to curb anti-Trump activities and prosecute protesters, which was instigated by the US Department of Justice, is gaining momentum.

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On 17th July, the District of Colombia court issued a search warrant (Pdf) for DreamHost, a web-hosting services provider, for the provision of every single piece of information it had related to the website from where coordinated protests were recorded. This warrant covered people responsible for operating this website, people who own it and the 1.3 million protestors’ IP addresses.

The warrant also made it obligatory for DreamHost to provide the exact date and time of visit and the browser and operating system that was used to access the website. The information required includes IP addresses, emails, website owner’s physical address, message submitting information, contact, content, and photos of millions of people.

“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. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind,” stated DreamHost in its official blog post.

Privacy advocates are obviously against this and DreamHost’s advisory firm Electronic Frontier Foundation termed the decision as an unconstitutional “fishing expedition” against political rebels. According to the counsel for DreamHost Chris Ghazarian, this case and the warrant are “pure prosecutorial overreach” by the much-politicized department of justice.

“You should be concerned that anyone should be targeted simply for visiting a website,” said Ghazarian.

DreamHost has decided to challenge the government and pursue the case. The warrant was released publicly on Monday while the first hearing will be held on Friday. Ghazarian explained that as far as the website’s owner is concerned, DreamHost already provided limited customer information to the government soon after the inauguration. However, the government needs detailed information, and this is why it has issued a broader search warrant.

This, the company maintains, would be a violation of tens of thousands of users of that website as the company serves as a “gatekeeper” between the government and website users and protecting people’s privacy is important.

“What they would be getting is a list of everyone who has ever been interested in attending these protests or seeing what was going on at the protests and that’s the troubling aspect. It’s a short step after you have the list to connect the IP address to someone’s identity,” stated senior staff attorney Mark Rumold.

The issuance of a warrant from the US Department of Justice is indeed surprising because freedom of speech is granted through the US Constitution and very rarely do we see this right is prohibited. Usually, we see warrants for websites being issued against illegal content like pirated movies or child sexual abuse images, etc.

The web site was developed to create the “framework” required for shutting down the inauguration of Trump through mass protests. The site’s owner has not issued any statement as of now.

Waqas

Waqas Amir is a Milan-based cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Waqas is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.