DreamHost Goes to Washington

Technology / August 18, 2017

This week has been extra crazy but overwhelmingly incredible with the outpour of love and support. DreamHost got on the front page of all the major news outlets this week when pushing back on a search warrant from the Department of Justice. The warrant asks for information on 1.3 million users (IP Addresses) who visited a website on our servers. The website (Disruptj20.org) was set up for organizing protesters during Trump's inauguration day, and you can read the blog post that set the whole thing off here on DreamHost's blog.

DreamHost is no stranger to search warrants both from the FBI and Department of Justice. This is a regular thing and something that happens to every web hosting provider. We have a powerful tool that let people have a voice on the web. Similar to the old town public squares, we facilitate a platform for people to exchange information and ideas. When the government started looking not just for every single resident in that town, but anyone who has ever visited it. That is when something felt amiss.

As I am writing this, we still do not know how the judge will rule in this case. We will find out on Thursday, August 24th if we will be ordered to hand over these records to the government. But why is this so significant?

History repeats itself

This has happened before. The government has a history of overreaching and abusing its power to spy on innocent citizens. We can look to the Patriot Act and PRISM as recently as the 2000s. Or go back to the 1950's to the 1970's, when the intelligence community launched investigations and monitored political dissidents, anti-war and civil-rights activists. These groups were harassed and disrupted while smearing these movements for being 'fringe' movements. The NAACP was investigated to determine if it had ties to the Communist Party. Martin Luther King Jr was investigated for decades to find anything that could destroy his reputation. All in the name of 'national security'.

Privacy is essential to democracy

Protecting our privacy is part of protecting our democracy. The loss of privacy is loose to our freedom. It is the keystone to freedom of expression, speech, press, association, and assembly. Knowing you are being watched, people will change their behaviors and self-censor as a result. It comes down to power.

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

-Edward Snowden

Snowden also points out that the loss of privacy doesn't affect the privileged but those who are vulnerable. It affects the opinions that might not be popular or dissent with the government. When people know they are being watched they will be more reluctant to join controversial movements and speak out. All large movements that have moved our society along started on the fringe. Women's suffrage. Civil Rights. Labor Movements. Gay Marriage.

Speaking up

It is important to speak up and exercise our rights when we see them being infringed upon. Our opinions might vary, but our right to voice them should stay the same. This should not be a right versus left issue. Liberal versus conservative. Blue versus red. This is something that affects all of us.

The internet was founded — and continues to survive, in the main — on its democratizing ability to facilitate a free exchange of ideas. Internet users have a reasonable expectation that they will not get swept up in criminal investigations simply by exercising their right to political speech against the government.

-DreamHost Blog

The support for DreamHost this week has been incredible. There has been an outpouring of tweets and comments thanking DreamHost for pushing back and standing up for people's civil rights. What I feel is really wonderful is this is not new to DreamHost. This is something that has always been incredibly important to the company and is part of our values. This week we got to share that value with the world.

Further Reading:

EFF Articles

In J20 Investigation, DOJ Overreaches Again. And Gets Taken to Court Again.
The History of Surveillance and the Black Community

ACLU

History Repeated