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Justice Department's Dreamhost Subpoena Ramps Up the Police State!

Visiting a website could make you a subpoena target

Dreamhost, one of the world's largest web-hosting companies, is hardly a model of political courage or resistance to government intrusion. In fact, it cooperates with government investigations all the time and will routinely give up your site information with nothing more than a legal order from a government lawyer or investigator. This isn't a political choice by Dreamhost; it doesn't make those. It's probably more an attempt to avoid a costly legal battle.

So, until the order was expanded to include those IPs, Dreamhost gave up information about the distruptj20 website. In its statement on the controversy it almost boasts that it's been "working with the Department of Justice to comply with legal process."

The problem with that compliance strategy has now become clear. It set the precedent the government needed to go after what constitutes an entire movement by simply expanding the legal demands Dreamhost had already obeyed.

But the corporate giant stopped cold at the expansion. Even Dreamhost understood what such a thing meant: if you can get this kind of information from a website, you can track everyone getting involved in a campaign and take action against them. You can, literally, demobilize a movement and make involvement in it illegal. You have a police state.

The parties are going to court this Friday because Dreamhost is making a legal challenge to the order. We will report on that when it happens.

What's interesting here, for the moment, is how much light it shines on a major contradiction in the strategy of on-line repression. While large corporations (and the rest of the country's ruling class) have no problem with the government seizing data and monitoring on-line activities as it's been doing for over a decade now, there's a line the corporations don't want to cross.

The wholesale gathering of data clearly affects movement websites but, if it continues, it will start to affect people's patterns of use of the Internet and companies don't want that. Such "hesitation" in the fast-clicking world of the Web would affect commerce and profits in all kinds of ways.

For those of us who care about freedom, though, the more important issue is what this means for a movement that has become almost fully dependent on the Internet for its communications. In fact, its successes (and there have been many recently) can be traced to the rapid response and wide-ranging communications possible with the Net.

If the government can make you a target of an investigation because you visit a website, it can do a lot of things to prevent you from exercising your right to organize and protest. And that, at this point in our tortured history, isn't something we should be willing to give up.



story | by Dr. Radut