SAN FRANCISCO — Web service provider DreamHost is turning to an online litigation crowdfunding platform to help cover the costs of challenging a U.S. Department of Justice warrant that seeks information about visitors to an anti-Trump protest website.
The company is seeking to raise $10,000 through its campaign on CrowdJustice, a kind of “Kickstarter for lawsuits” site that originated in the U.K. and launched operations in the United States in January. The cutoff date for the funding campaign is Sept. 16.
By mid-day Friday, the DreamHost campaign had drawn $940 from 13 donors, according to the site. No money is actually donated unless the target is reached.
“We are fighting a highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution,” DreamHost’s general counsel, Chris Ghazarian, said in a joint press release circulated by the company and CrowdJustice on Friday.
“This will affect not just DreamHost and online service providers, but all internet users who want to protect their legal browsing history from the government,” Ghazarian added. The Los Angeles-based company first announced the funding campaign in a blog post on Thursday.
Julia Salasky, CEO of CrowdJustice, said the platform “is committed to helping individuals and organizations defend and advance rights under the law … This is a powerful way for people who believe in internet privacy to rally around DreamHost.”
This is not the first time that the crowdfunding site has been used to aid legal efforts against the Trump administration. In a high-profile case soon after its U.S. launch, advocates for the Aziz brothers—two Yemeni nationals who were detained and deported after the rollout of the White House’s travel ban—raised $36,600 in three days to aid their legal effort.
Salasky, however, has said that the platform remains politically neutral and will only refuse to host legal campaigns that are patently bogus or violate the site’s terms of service.
Reuters has reported that a number of other crowdfunding sites have pulled down campaigns to raise legal funds for the man charged with killing Heather Heyer at the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, citing policies that prohibit the promotion of hate speech or violence.
The DOJ search warrant against DreamHost requests all information related to a website it hosts, disruptj20.org, which was used to organize protests during President Donald Trump’s inauguration. DreamHost has said what the government is asking for includes server logs containing 1.3 million IP addresses of people who visited the site.
Brett Dunst, vice president of corporate communications for DreamHost, said in an email Friday morning that the company launched the CrowdJustice campaign not because it needs the money, but “to give an outlet to those who may be as disturbed about the government’s request as we are.” It’s the first time the company has used a crowdfunding site to cover costs for litigation, Dunst added.
According to DreamHost’s crowdfunding site, any unused dollars that are raised will be donated to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that “has been an ally and a supportive professional resource for DreamHost throughout this challenge.”