WASHINGTON—Reports that the Justice Department served a warrant on an internet company, demanding it turn over records that could be used to identify more than a million visitors to a Trump protest website, raise serious concerns about the Trump Administration targeting critics and attempting to chill dissent, PEN America said today.

The company, Dreamhost, maintains disruptJ20.org, which was used to organize protests on the day of President Trump’s inauguration. The Justice Department, which handles local prosecutions in the District of Columbia, issued the warrant to Dreamhost,  revealed in a blog post, requiring Dreamhost to produce “all files” in connection with disruptJ20.org, which would include logs for each visitor to the site. These logs include detailed information, including the time and date of the visit, the internet address of the user and the pages the visitor looked at. Combined with other easily obtainable information, police could then trace the specific computers of the more than 1.3 million visitors for which Dreamhost has logs. Local D.C. police have already arrested more than 200 protesters en masse, including a number of journalists, and have charged them with felony rioting, which could carry decades in jail. 

“I am one of the more than a million people who visited this website, and who will be swept up by this obscenely broad search warrant—all because it’s my job to follow these things,” said Gabe Rottman, PEN America’s Washington director. “How many other journalists, academics, lawyers, peaceful protesters, and even Trump supporters visited this website? They will all be under a microscope if the court lets this dragnet stand.”

Dreamhost is currently challenging the warrant under both free speech and privacy grounds. Among other things, the company is arguing that the warrant would sweep in completely innocent, and constitutionally protected, communications without any indication that the communications are in any way relevant to wrongdoing. The challenge is set for a hearing on Friday in D.C. court.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Sarah Edkins Lien, Director of Communications: [email protected], +1 646.779.4830