The Department of Justice backed down from their controversial request from a website used to help organize protests during President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
On Tuesday, DOJ lawyers filed a request to modify their original search warrant to exclude their previous request for server logs from web hosting company DreamHost, which would have revealed data that could personally identify thousands of visitors.
One of DreamHosts’s clients is disruptj20.org, a website that planned multiple protests on or around Jan. 20.
Rather than “all files,” the modification will exclude visitor access, error logs and unpublished media like text and photos.
DreamHost called visitors’ IP addresses “largely safe” in a blog post on Tuesday.
“We see this as a huge win for internet privacy, and we absolutely appreciate the DOJ’s willingness to look at and reconsider both the scope and the depth of their original request for records,” the DreamHost blog reads.
A number of people included in the government’s originally broad request were represented by Public Citizen, a progressive consumer rights advocacy group. Public Citizen believes the government has “no legal justification for seeking out the identities of people who accessed a protest website,” the group said in a statement.
“In the face of growing public concern, the Trump Justice Department has backed down on its outrageously overbroad request for information on every visitor to an inaugural protest website,” Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said. “If the government had prevailed in its request to enforce the original terms of the warrant, it would have significantly chilled dissent.
“And there was every reason to fear that if the Trump administration had been able to get away with their anti-First Amendment request, then more, and more serious, civil liberties infringements would follow. A debt of gratitude is owed to the web hosting company DreamHost, which stood up for speech protections in the face of an improper government demand.”
As much of the DOJ’s original request still stands, DreamHost blogged that there are still a few “problematic” First and Fourth Amendment issues that will be addressed in a hearing scheduled for Thursday.
- Kimberly M. Aquilina