The Donald Trump Administration has ruffled a lot of feathers since taking office. From endless gaffes, allegations of Russian collusion, to threats of preemptive strikes on nuclear adversaries, Trump’s first year in office has left many worried about ethics and the state of the Union. Recently it surfaced that the Trump Administration has been demanding IP addresses of citizens visiting an anti-Trump website. Whether one voted for him or thoroughly dislikes him, this should alarm everyone.
Trump’s DOJ is Requesting Identifying Information
Disruptj20.org is a website activists can access to organize and gather information about upcoming protests against the Trump administration. The website is hosted by DreamHost, whose team recently acknowledged that they have been working with the Department of Justice for the past several months. However, they feel that what the DOJ is now asking for is not constitutional and have expressed their deep reservations in a blog post.
While some of the information the DOJ has requested is fairly run of the mill, the department is also asking for all possible information on visitors to the website in question. This includes IPs as well as all other data one might leave on the site including cookies, profiles, and the like. In the opinion of DreamHost, asking for this type of information in the context of a political resistance site is chilling and an affront to first amendment rights.
Does It Really Matter?
Put simply, yes. The requested information goes beyond IPs, which can themselves be incredibly revealing. The DOJ requested contact information, email content, and even photos. This was all done in an effort to identify those who had even just briefly visited the site. Happily, DreamHost has since begun fighting the DOJ on having to provide this information, and it faces a fierce legal battle ahead. It is a fight worth the effort, and DreamHost has my moral support.
We must defend the rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens in the Constitution. The first amendment protects the rights to freedom of speech, political thought, and peaceful assembly. Airing disagreement through peaceful protest is one of the most American things one can do. Even if you disagree with particular protests and protesters, you should be vehemently defending their right to do so without fear of government reprisal. Collecting identifying information of protesters and handing it over to this administration is suspicious and downright sinister.
Moreover, doing so would set a precedent that could be exploited by any administration going forward. Legal language and infringements on citizens’ rights from the Patriot Act did not end after George W. Bush left office. This precedent — if not nipped in the bud — is not likely to go away with Trump leaving office.
The internet and governments have had a hard time getting along, but citizens should be able to exercise the same rights online that we are guaranteed in the physical world. Our rights are extended to wherever we extend ourselves. Never let anyone take away your rights, and make as much peaceful noise as possible if someone tries.