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Prosecutors Now Say They Don't Want Data On Everyone Who Visited An Inauguration Protest Website

Federal prosecutors said in a new court filing that they didn't realize how much data on website visitors a search warrant would cover.

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Federal prosecutors are scaling back their request for records connected to an Inauguration Day protest website, saying in a court filing on Tuesday that they have "no interest" in the more than 1 million IP addresses of people who visited the site.

Web hosting service DreamHost Inc. announced last week that it was challenging a search warrant for records on disruptj20.org, a website that published information about protests in Washington, DC, against President Trump during his inauguration. The company said it would be forced to produce more than a million IP addresses of website visitors, along with other records. Civil liberties and electronic privacy groups denounced the warrant as overbroad and unconstitutional.

The US attorney's office in DC asked a judge on Tuesday to approve a modified version of a search warrant that would narrow the scope of the records sought. Prosecutors defended the original warrant as valid, but wrote that they were focused on information about anyone who may have used the website to organize criminal activity — more than 200 people were arrested for rioting — and were "committed to minimizing the information that is ultimately seized."

"What the government did not know when it obtained the Warrant — what
it could not have reasonably known — was the extent of visitor data maintained by DreamHost that extends beyond the government's singular focus in this case of investigating the planning, organization, and participation in the January 20, 2017 riot," prosecutors wrote.

The revised search warrant would exclude HTTP request logs, which DreamHost said contain "extensive information" about visitors to the website. The new warrant would also limit the time frame for records, exclude draft posts that were never published on the website, and spell out that prosecutors are looking for evidence of planning and coordination of criminal activity. Nearly 200 people are still facing felony charges for rioting and property destruction related to the Jan. 20 protests.

DreamHost's lawyer, Raymond Aghaian, said in an email to BuzzFeed News that the government's proposed changes to the warrant represented a "tremendous win."

However, Aghaian said DreamHost would press forward with other legal challenges to the warrant, which he said continued to present privacy and constitutional issues.

A spokesman for the US attorney's office declined to comment on the revision. A DC Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Thursday.

Zoe Tillman is a legal reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Zoe Tillman at zoe.tillman@buzzfeed.com.

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