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Court orders web host to hand over IP addresses of anti-Trump website visitors

WEB HOSTING company Dreamhost says it has been asked to hand over more than 1.3 million IP addresses of visitors to a site that helped organise anti-Trump protests.

A search warrant, dated 12 July from a District of Colombia court, said that visitors to the disruptj20.org site, hosted by Dreamhost, must be available as they constitute “the individuals who participated, planned, organized, or incited the January 20 riot,”.

We assume this is the fabled “Bowling Green Massacre”?

Data including IP addresses, physical addresses and so on, as well as contacts, and even photos of visitors are to be released.

“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,” said Dreamhost in a blog post, adding: “This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.”

Speaking about the demand, privacy specialist NordVPN told the INQUIRER: “We want to believe that the Constitutional citizens’ right to the freedom of political speech will be respected, but this demand to hand over more than a million of private people’s records is indeed very worrying.

“American citizens should be able to express their political stance without being afraid that they will be targeted by the government. 

“We see this happening in countries with strict government control, and we hope America will not become one of these countries. However, people should start taking their online privacy into their own hands. Using a VPN protects a user’s IP address and encrypts the information that they share online.”

Facebook had made similar protests as it warned users that government forces were coming after data of anti-Trump protestors, and Anonymous threatened in the days leading to the inauguration that it would release “proof” that Trump was linked to child trafficking, which ultimately came to nothing. 

Dreamhost is already filing an opposition letter, arguing, amongst other things, that as well as violating peoples right to free speech in the first amendment, it also violates the fourth amendment right to avoid unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation is assisting, though not representing Dreamhost, and said there was “no plausible explanation”. The hosting company has giveny givcen over details of the organisers based on the site registration, and both companies see further release as “overreach”, as it attempts to find details of site visitors – that is to say interest parties, and in the most part peaceful protestors.

It seems unlikely that anything will be released in the short term, as everyone and their auntie will want to fight this clear breach of privacy, but in the meantime, if this is the way the new world works, it’s time to start hiding your web searches a lot more carefully. µ

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