The Justice Department is backpedaling on demands it has made for the IP addresses of visitors to a website that helped organize protests against President Donald Trump.
Web hosting provider DreamHost revealed last week that it wasfor records from DisruptJ20.org related to who may have planned or participated in violent protests that occurred in Washington on Inauguration Day. The search warrant sought the IP addresses, emails and physical addresses of the website owners, as well as similar information about the site’s users.
“That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment,” the web hosting provider said.
The department has now narrowed its request for data based on information provided by DreamHost it was previously unaware of, Channing Phillips, the US Attorney for the District of Columbia, wrote in a legal brief (PDF) filed Tuesday.
“The government has no interest in records relating to the 1.3 million IP addresses that are mentioned in DreamHost’s numerous press releases and Opposition brief,” Channing wrote in the brief. “The government is focused on the criminal acts of defendants and their co-conspirators, and not their political views — and certainly not the lawful activities of peaceful protestors.”
Channing defended the warrant as properly issued by the court but said the government couldn’t exclude certain items from the scope of the warrant that it didn’t know were in DreamHost’s possession. The department is still seeking information DreamHost may possess about account subscribers, but not IP addresses, unpublished drafts and images.
DreamHost attorneys applauded the Justice Department’s modifications to the warrant but said its legal fight isn’t over.
“This is a tremendous win for DreamHost, its users and the public,” DreamHost counsel Raymond Aghaian said in a statement. “There remains, unfortunately, other privacy and First and Fourth Amendment issues with the search warrant, which we will address in a separate filing and at the hearing Thursday morning.”
Approximately 230 protesters were arrested, most on felony rioting charges, on Inauguration Day after some protesters threw objects at people and businesses, destroying storefronts and damaging vehicles. The arrests took place in a four-block stretch of downtown Washington around the time of Trump‘s swearing-in ceremony.
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