Although your less-than-friendly neighborhood “alt-righter” might want to pervert it into a license to say any bigoted thing they want, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America simply ensures the people’s right to express themselves without fear of government reprisal. So while KekiBro69 or whomever might think that people telling him he’s a piece of shit for parroting Nazi slogans have violated his free speech, the fact of the matter is that, as long as the government doesn’t get involved, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. Twitter can kick him off its service, Google can deny his domain registration, a private university can decline to book him as a speaker, or a private company can fire him for violating their code of ethics, assuming said employer isn’t violating contract law or the Civil Rights Act in the process.
So we’re clear on that? Yes? Okay, good. Because here’s an example of the federal government actually attempting to interfere not only with the people’s right to free expression, but their right to peaceful assembly, as well as the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unlawful search and seizure. As reported by New York Magazine, this week web hosting service DreamHost revealed that it had received a search warrant from the Department of Justice requesting IP addresses and other potentially identifying metadata on visitors to DisruptJ20.org, which was used to organize protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump. The requested data includes information on dates and times the site was accessed, “in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people,” according to DreamHost. The request, which applies to anyone who visited the site this past January—right when planning for the protest was at its height—would affect more than 1.3 million people. What the DOJ wants with this information is unclear, but whatever it is, it probably isn’t to mail protesters $20 bills.
DreamHost refused the request, and is scheduled to appear in court in Washington, D.C. this coming Friday, August 18. That’s according to the pro-online privacy organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, which calls the DOJ’s search warrant an unconstitutional action of “staggering overbreadth.” In the face of such a shameless attempt to violate a bedrock American right, we’re sure all our free-speech loving friends with whom we spend so much quality time in Facebook comment threads and Twitter mentions will rally together to defend this value that they clearly—and loudly—hold so dear. Right?