A court has limited a Department of Justice warrant seeking information from Facebook on a number of activists who protested Donald Trump's inauguration. kalhh/Pixabay

A court in Washington, D.C., has issued an order to limit the scope of search warrants obtained by United States Department of Justice investigators seeking data from Facebook as part of an ongoing investigation into criminal rioting that took place during the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

The U.S. Department of Justice will be blocked by the order from viewing any identifying information from third-party Facebook users who are not under investigation but viewed or interacted with a Facebook account that was used to organize Inauguration Day protests on January 20, 2017.

The warrant centers around a Facebook accounts of two D.C.-based protesters and a Facebook page for DisruptJ20, an organization created by group of activists who were attempting to build “the framework needed for mass protests to shut down the inauguration of Donald Trump and planning widespread direct actions to make that happen.” The Facebook page for the group has since rebranded to “Resist This.”

In the filing, Washington, D.C., Superior Court Chief Judge Robert Morin moved to place “procedural safeguards” on the warrants in order to protect the rights of individuals who may be swept up under the original scope of the warrant.

The Department of Justice originally sought Facebook information from the two individuals’ accounts and the DisruptJ20 page, including all private messages, friend lists, status updates, comments, photos, video and other information that would otherwise be considered private on the social network.

The warrant also sought information the users and administrators of the page took on Facebook, including all searches performed, groups joined and “all data and information that has been deleted by the user.” The warrant covered a 101-day period and was not limited to information related to the Inauguration Day protests.

As a result of the court order Monday, Facebook will be required to edit out all third-party information that may identify a user, including the names and photos of approximately 6,000 people who liked or followed the DisruptJ20 Facebook page but were not believed to be a part of the Department of Justice’s investigation into alleged riots. The names of individuals who were friends with or communicated with the two local protesters named in the warrant will also be blocked.

The redacted information can only be provided by Facebook to the Department of Justice if the government is able to successfully demonstrate to the court that the information would constitute potential evidence of a crime.

The court also limited the range from which Facebook is required to provide information from the accounts. While the Department of Justice demanded information from November 1, 2016 through February 9, the warrant will only provide data from a 21-day period from January 20 to February 9.

“The court agreed to impose safeguards to protect political activity and third-party communications from government snooping, but was not equally careful to protect our clients’ private and personal communications,” Scott Michelman, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of the District of Columbia, said in a statement.

“Our clients, who have not been charged with any crime, expect that when they send private Facebook messages about, for instance, their medical history or traumatic events in their lives, those messages will remain private unless the government shows probable cause to search those particular messages, which it has not done.”

The limitations on the scope of the warrants for Facebook data are similar to the restrictions placed on a warrant for data on the DisruptJ20 website, which called for web hosting provider DreamHost to keep anonymous the identities of visitors to the protest organizer’s website.

The Department of Justice initially demanded the disclosure of all files associated with DisruptJ20.org, the contents of email accounts for those associated with the site, contact and billing information the person who registered the site and the IP addresses of visitors to the site.

Chief Judge Robert Morin, who also oversaw the DreamHost case, issued an order that said 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."

Facebook did not respond to request for comment.