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ACLU: DreamHost Warrant Is A 'Clear Threat' To The Constitution

Earlier this week, DreamHost revealed that the U.S. Department of Justice has demanded that the company hand over the IP addresses of 1.2 million people who visited the #DisruptJ20 website. That site was used to coordinate protests of President Donald Trump's inauguration, among other things, and now the Justice Department wants DreamHost to share any information it has about the site and the people who interact with it.

DreamHost said the Justice Department has also demanded thousands of people's contact information, email content, and photos. The hosting company said in its blog post that these demands represent "a very unfocused search and an unlawful request for [its users'] personal information."

Now it seems the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agrees. "One of the core principles enshrined in the Fourth Amendment is a prohibition on general searches—meaning, the government cannot simply go fishing for a wide range of information in the hope that some kind of useful evidence will turn up," the ACLU said in a blog post. "But that’s exactly what the government appears to be doing" with these demands.

This isn't the first time the organization has had to defend those protections this week. It has also continued its fight to require police to obtain a warrant for cellphone location data, an issue that will head to the Supreme Court sometime this fall. The cases aren't exactly the same—DreamHost was served with a search warrant for this data—but the underlying principle is similar.

That principle maintains that Constitutional protections must keep pace with technological innovations. The idea is that police shouldn't be able to access location information just because it was collected from a smartphone, for example, or issue a warrant "targeting" 1.2 million people who happened to visit a particular website. According to the ACLU, these efforts could undermine the First Amendment as well as the Fourth:

The DreamHost warrant in particular is likely to chill the exercise of First Amendment rights—including the right to receive information, to speak anonymously, and to associate with like-minded individuals free from the threat of government unmasking.

DreamHost said much the same. The data demanded by the Justice Department "could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment," it said, which "should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind." The company is working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to protest the warrant and protect #DisruptJ20 visitors' data.

  • elbert
    From what I understnd its a hate site. Everyone talks bad about people with vile threats. They should instead push to shut down the site.
    Reply
  • Aspiring techie
    The IRS targeted conservative groups in 2010, yet nobody complained about that.
    Reply
  • Snipergod87
    @Elbert even if that is true that still falls under the first amendment, we can't just pick and choose what we would like it apply to.
    Reply
  • elbert
    True but in most cases also falls under Terms of Service take downs. The provider just needs some arm twisting to do whats right.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    The scope of the warrant is just too broad in my non-legal background opinion (Then again... looking at the requirements stated in the U.S. Constitution, any citizen, regardless if they possess a law degree or not, can be a supreme court justice. Won't happen now though... it's been too politicized.)... They need specifics. They need specific names. I don't condone what goes on at that site, trust me. However, they need a different approach... like with Capone if they can't find ties/evidence that will legally stand up... to take it and those guilty of inciting violence, down. (It's one thing to vent and blame, it's another to incite violence and/or act in violence.)

    Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if someone tries to use the Patriot Act (in which many of its laws and permission actually do violate the U.S. Constitution and yet the ACLU hasn't even bothered to speak out against let alone fight it in court) to get the info they want.
    Reply
  • caustin582
    20068675 said:
    The IRS targeted conservative groups in 2010, yet nobody complained about that.

    First, lots of people complained about it. It was headline news for weeks.

    Second, an IRS investigation of the actions of some organizations is a very different thing from a Justice Department investigation of all individual users of a website. The IRS wasn't looking to collect any information it could find on the people who make up the groups it was investigating; it was checking for illegal funding practices by the groups as a whole. What's happening here is much more troubling.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    20068675 said:
    The IRS targeted conservative groups in 2010, yet nobody complained about that.

    I only up-voted this because of the last part: "nobody complained about that"... There was some outcry, but they should have complained just as loudly and for just as long, if not longer, as they complain now about this; It was government overreach and abuse of powers.

    Other than that, the two are like apples and oranges: different enough they can't really be compared on the same terms.

    (Edited to reflect there was some outcry over the abuse of IRS power.)
    Reply
  • Aspiring techie
    20069439 said:
    20068675 said:
    The IRS targeted conservative groups in 2010, yet nobody complained about that.

    I only up-voted this because of the last part: "nobody complained about that"... There was some outcry, but they should have complained just as loudly and for just as long, if not longer, as they complain now about this; It was government overreach and abuse of powers.

    Other than that, the two are like apples and oranges: different enough they can't really be compared on the same terms.

    (Edited to reflect there was some outcry over the abuse of IRS power.)
    You are correct, the incident in 2010 and this current one are very different. You are also right, my point was that the people and media will probably raise a much bigger stink over this than they did in 2010 simply because of who's president.
    Reply
  • falchard
    It was not long ago I hated what the ACLU was doing. But recently, they have been doing some good. It's nice to see they finally got their priorities straight.
    Reply
  • southernshark
    The ACLU has definitely stepped up its game lately, perhaps jettisoning some of the legacy baby boomer lawyers who were so pro government that they forgot the legacy goals of the ACLU (or maybe just so stoned and lazy).

    This is clearly an attack on the 1st Amendment and it should be fought tooth and nail.
    Reply