DreamHost: Fighting for Internet Privacy
DreamHost, a longtime Clement | Peterson client, is one of the world’s most popular (and tenured) web hosting providers. The company has seen a lot in its 20+ year history, but 2017 brought something entirely new – for them, and for us.
From a national news cycle perspective, 2017 was fast-moving. But when DreamHost received a request to provide certain data to the Department of Justice, something didn’t sound right. DreamHost commonly gets requests from lawyers and government agencies to provide data, usually around allegations that a hosted site is involved in copyright infringement, defamation complaints, or DMCA takedown requests. The majority (and the company is transparent in why they do what they do) the requests are denied. When part of criminal investigations and legal to do so, DreamHost will provide data. This DOJ request seemed fishy.
The DOJ warrant asked for all the IP addresses of web visitors who had been to a government protest site. Believing the warrant was a “highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution,” DreamHost discussed the situation with Clement | Peterson. The plan was get the word out that this warrant existed – and what DreamHost thought of it – before a Washington, D.C. hearing scheduled for a few days later.
Media pitches began late on a Sunday and the floodgates soon opened. Clement | Peterson worked virtually around the clock pitching national, technology, and government media sources on what was going on. Many took phone and/or written interviews from DreamHost sources, and DreamHost executives also made the rounds on cable news shows to discuss the situation.
This wasn’t the norm for a B2B company, but C|P was ready when the news cycle hit. Highlighted by repeated interviews and coverage in The New York Times, TechCrunch, CNBC, The Hill, The Washington Post, NPR, Fortune, and CNN, the story amassed more than 500 stories that followed the battle between DreamHost and the DOJ warrant. For DreamHost, standing up for internet privacy on behalf of visitors to a website it hosted was the only option to be considered.
A direct result of the onslaught of media coverage, the initial hearing with the DOJ was delayed. Eventually, the objectionable components of the warrant for individual website visitor data was dropped.