Five people who visited a web site that helped organize Inauguration Day protests are attempting to oppose a search warrant requiring the site's hosting company, DreamHost, to turn over identifying information about visitors.
"The implications of the court allowing federal prosecutors to compel the identification of the more than a million IP addresses from which users viewed a web site devoted to protesting the President’s inauguration are chilling indeed," lawyers for the web users argue in court papers filed today with District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert Morin. "Intrusion into the privacy of so many individuals who viewed the anti-Trump protest site anonymously should not be enforced without a highly exacting showing of the government’s need for that information."
The users, represented by advocacy group Public Citizen, are seeking to intervene in DreamHost's attempt to lift a search warrant requiring the company to disclose the IP addresses of 1.3 million users who visited disruptj20org, which encouraged people to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Some of the Inauguration Day protests turned violent, resulting in the indictment of 200 people so far.
DreamHost said last week that it is challenging that search warrant in court. The company makes several arguments, including that people have the right to read political material anonymously.
The site visitors, who are proceeding anonymously, make a similar argument. "Just as the First Amendment right to speak includes the right to speak anonymously... state and federal courts have recognized the right to read anonymously," they argue.
They also say that the current version of the site, and past versions that are available on the Internet Archive, don't include calls for violence. "Indeed, some of the material urged participants not to resort to violence," they argue.
The users add that the broad search warrant is especially troubling in the current political climate. They say they "have particular reason to be concerned in an administration led by a president who has shown intense intolerance for disagreement and a tendency to lash out with raw language and threats directed at political adversaries."