Web host will turn over anti-Trump site visitor info to Feds

Protestors gather around a debris fire during a demonstration after the inauguration of President Donald Trump Friday Jan. 20 2017 in Washington

Specifically, he said the Department of Justice needed to specify in advance who would have access to the data, describe how they'd be filtering or searching through it, and present the courts with a detailed list of what they'd seized and why.

During an hour-long hearing, attorneys for DreamHost, the company that hosts the website Disruptj20.org, argued the federal search warrant was still too broad and would include information of innocent individuals who visited the site but were not part of violent Inauguration Day rioting.

The government initially served a search warrant dated July 12 on DreamHost for files and records associated with the website DisruptJ20.org, which featured information about Inauguration Day protests in Washington.

The Justice Department's original search warrant asked for email address, physical addresses, IP addresses and other information about the website's owners as well as the site's users.

A Washington, D.C., judge has turned aside First Amendment claims and ordered a web hosting company to give the U.S. Justice Department information about people connected to an anti-Trump website. "At the time this information is in the government's possession and at the time that the Federal Bureau of Investigation agent is reviewing that email. that, in DreamHost's view, has itself a chilling effect on the exercise of political expression and the right to association under the First Amendment".

However, the court filing indicates that the Department of Justice still is seeking access to DreamHost's records to identify evidence of crimes.

Some data about anti-Trump website subscribers...

Chief Judge Robert Morin, of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, acknowledged Thursday in court that he was struggling to balance First Amendment rights with the valid concerns of law enforcement enforcing a search warrant based on probable cause.

Prosecutors allege Disrupt J20 helped plan protests that pulled in participants from across the country and last month obtained a warrant to compel DreamHost to turn over emails, images and other information from computer users who visited the website.

But DreamHost said the warrant was still too broad, as it could sweep in people who sent emails to disruptj20 addresses.

The U.S. government had already scaled back the scope of its request before Thursday's hearing.

"I'm still deeply uncomfortable with DOJ rifling through a bunch of First Amendment-protected communications", Rumold said. He directed the government to submit information to the court about its method for searching through the data and minimizing data on innocent third-party visitors to the site.

"I'm going to be supervising their search", Morin told the lawyers.

Raymond O. Aghaian, a lawyer for Dreamhost, argued that the judge's safeguards do not go far enough and signaled that the company may appeal Morin's ruling, saying website users may face "irreparable harm" if Dreamhost complies with the ruling.

Earlier this week, the US attorney's office in D.C.



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