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Judge chastises DOJ attempt to collect info on inauguration protesters – A N I T H
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Judge chastises DOJ attempt to collect info on inauguration protesters

Judge chastises DOJ attempt to collect info on inauguration protesters


An inauguration protester stands in front of riot police during the demonstration in downtown Washington, during the inauguration of President Donald Trump, on Jan. 20.

Image: Jose Luis Magana/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The Superior Court of Washington, D.C. handed another win to digital privacy advocates earlier this week, chiding the Department of Justice along the way.

Chief Judge Robert Morin set more limitations on the DOJ’s attempt to vacuum up a trove of information about visitors to disruptj20.org, a site used to plan protests on the day President Donald Trump was inaugurated. The DOJ has accused the people behind the site of planning a riot.

The DOJ initially sought 1.3 million IP addresses of people who had visited disruptj20.org, demanding the information from the company that hosted the website, DreamHost. When DreamHost spoke up, the DOJ shrank its warrant down to the people behind the website. 

But Chief Judge Robert Morin added an extra layer of protection for the website’s visitors in his Oct. 10 ruling, ordering that DreamHost will redact identifying information of those visitors that would have otherwise appeared in information they had to hand over to the DOJ.  

“Because of the potential breadth of the government’s review in this case, the warrant in its execution may implicate otherwise innocuous and constitutionally protected activity,” he wrote. “[The government] does not have the right to rummage through the information contained on DreamHost’s website and discover the identity of, or access communications by, individuals not participating in alleged criminal activity, particularly those persons who were engaging in protected First Amendment activities.”

If the DOJ wants to look at any of the redacted information, they’ll have to justify their desire to see it in writing. 

“The new order is a far cry from the original warrant we received in July and validates our decision to raise questions about the original order,” DreamHost wrote on its blog in response to Morin’s decision. 

The company wrote that it plans to remove “any identifying information” related to “non-subscribers” that it has to hand over to the government.

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Anith Gopal
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