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Justice Department drops bid to collect information on visitors to website involved with Inauguration Day protests

The Justice Department has dropped its request for digital addresses that could identify more than 1 million visitors to a website involved with organizing protests on President Trump’s Inauguration Day.

Government lawyers wrote in a court filing Monday they had “no interest in records relating to the 1.3 million IP addresses” of site visitors, but wanted information on the planning, coordinating and participation of the protests.

“The government values and respects the 1st Amendment right of all Americans to participate in peaceful political protests and to read protected political expression online. This warrant has nothing to do with that right,” the filing said.

The move marks a change in the Trump administration's previous attempts to gather information on those who protested during Trump's swearing-in on Jan. 20.

The Justice Department obtained a search warrant in July for information regarding the website disruptj20, hosted by DreamHost and associated with the Inauguration Day protests that led to more than 200 criminal cases.

DreamHost refused to comply with the warrant, saying it violated its 1st and 4th Amendment rights because it would require releasing contact information, email addresses and photos of people who had visited the website to “exercise and express political speech. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind."

An amended warrant specified that the government would only request information from July 1, 2016, to Jan. 20, 2017, the day of the protests, and that DreamHost should not include unpublished materials or records.

The government said it would seal any information it did not use and that it was not trying to “identify political dissidents of the current administration.”

DreamHost said in a statement that the Justice Department shift marked a "huge victory for Internet privacy,” but that there were still constitutional concerns with the warrant.

The government initially sought to compel DreamHost to release the information on July 28. A hearing is scheduled Thursday before District of Columbia Superior Court Chief Judge Robert E. Morin.

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