Armed with a 12 July search warrant authorised by a federal district court in Washington, DC, for “the individuals who participated, planned, organised, or incited the January 20 riot," the Justice Department met with resistance from DreamHost, which called the request that also asks for contact information and email content on visitors to the site "a strong example of investigatory overreach and a clear abuse of government authority.”
After its bid that the government narrow the scope of its request was rebuffed, DreamHost petitioned a Superior Court in DC to deny the government's motion because it violates both the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment and the Privacy Protection Act.
"Because it requires the disclosure of every piece of electronic information related to a website, including a large amount of information about the protected activities of third parties, the government's Search Warrant requires scrutiny of 'particular exactitude.' Scrutiny of this type demonstrates that the warrant lacks the specificity required by the Fourth Amendment and is unreasonable as a whole," the company wrote in its motion before the court. "Without any specification from the government, particularly given the over-expansive language of the Search Warrant, the Court should not compel DreamHost to provide all material to the government without a determination whether such material is intended for publication and if such material qualifies either as 'work product' or 'documentary material'" protected by the Privacy Act.
Digital rights advocates have thrown their support behind the web-hosting company. "No plausible explanation exists for a search warrant of this breadth, other than to cast a digital dragnet as broadly as possible. But the Fourth Amendment was designed to prohibit fishing expeditions like this," the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Staff Attorney Mark Rumold wrote in a blog post that applauded DreamHost for its response. "Those concerns are especially relevant here, where DOJ is investigating a website that served as a hub for the planning and exercise of First Amendment-protected activities."
The Superior Court will entertain the DreamHost motion at an 18 August hearing.