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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.


In the ongoing battle for online rights, the non-profit advocacy group Public Citizen has urged the courts that internet users who emailed a Trump-protest website have the right to remain anonymous.

The web-hosting service DreamHost is facing a warrant from the U.S. Department of Justice to release the information of all users who emailed or received emails from its site, according to a statement from Public Citizen.

Public Citizen is representing three “John Does” who engaged in email contact with the domain/listerv, and according to the motion, “object to disclosures that would lead to identifying them to a federal government that is increasingly hostile to dissent.”

The latest motion was filed in response to D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Robert E. Morin’s decision that DreamHost release the emails and information of those who interacted with the website.

“The execution of the warrant would lead to the loss of the anonymity that they enjoyed in sending and receiving those communications, and in being included in the membership list for the listserv,” the motion argues. “The ‘Does’ unquestionably have standing to raise their First Amendment rights in opposition to discovery that would take away their First Amendment right to send and receive communications anonymously.”

The initial warrant began in connection with a criminal investigation into Trump’s inauguration-weekend rioting that led to 230 arrests. Initially, the DOJ sought the 1.3 million IP addresses of users who had visited the website as a whole, but the government excluded that portion of the request when met with widespread outrage and what seemed like little chance of court approval.

The DOJ claims that several “purported” members were arrested and according to the Washington Post, “the damage caused by the group was in excess of $100,000.”

But Public Citizen and DreamHost maintain that revealing the identities of the John Does will uncover neither criminal intent nor planning of illegal activity. Rather, the two groups believe the DOJ seeks to build a list of those who oppose the Trump administration.

Public Citizen argues that the latest court-issued order did not notify the Does or give them a chance to protect their anonymity.

“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. “This is, in our opinion, a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.”

Jennie Neufeld is a junior writing fellow at AlterNet. She has previously worked for the Observer, the Wild and Nylon Magazine. Follow her on twitter @jennieneufeld.


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7 responses to “DOJ Requesting The Identities Of Emailers Involved In Trump-Protest Website”

  1. Beethoven says:

    It seems that, under Amendment IV of the Constitution, the DOJ, in order to justify a search warrant, has to show probable cause that a crime has been committed, that the evidence they seek was used to commit that crime, and the individuals who created that evidence are reasonably suspected of committing that crime. So what crime was committed by a person who sent, or received, an email from a particular website? If sending or receiving an email to or from a website can be considered a crime, then we need to shut the Internet down before every American ends up in prison.

    • InformedVoter says:

      Sorry beet, but your posted opinion is not law. When police exercise a search warrant, they are looking for damning information, etc. When the DOJ searches the emails, they will ignore the plain, innocent, mails and focus on those that call for criminal actions. The damage done during the protests certainly fits that model.
      Nice try, but when the DOJ and IRS went after right groups applying for 501(c)3 status, you had no problem. And in their cases, NO crime had been committed.

      You can’t have it both ways!

  2. Thoughtopsy says:

    Ahhh, the Police State is beginning early…

  3. 788eddie says:

    Does the Book title 1984 ring a bell?

  4. 788eddie says:

    And what do we do with all of the “.alt.right” websites that traffic is racist, homophobic commentary?

    • InformedVoter says:

      Sorry eddie but there aren’t any right websites that traffic in racist, homophobic banter. On the contrary, it’s left websites like the one for antifa that spew their hate and garbage. Just because you view a website at being right, doesn’t make it so.
      You’re so low information and the majority of your posts prove it!

  5. 788eddie says:

    The first thing I did after reading this article was to get on the website. As a citizen of the United States, I do have that right. I want to familiarize myself with their issues (probably a good thing to do for any concerned citizen).

    (I’ve always thought that Jeff Sessions was just a common racist, anyway.)

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