Culture

Why Are Thousands Of Facebook Users Suddenly ‘Checking Into’ Standing Rock Indian Reservation?

You may have noticed some of your Facebook friends mysteriously “checking into” the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Facebook on Monday. Most (if not all) of them were actually doing so from the comfort of home or work WiFi connections. The gesture appears to be an online movement to support those who protest the Dakota Access Pipeline and its potentially devastating effects on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water supply and sacred sites. Clashes between protesters and police have escalated for months as the tribe and its sympathizers attempt to halt construction.

The online movement shares the outrage over hundreds of arrests at the protest site, which stand in contrast to the so-called “Oregon militia” securing not-guilty verdicts after taking a wildlife refuge by force. One thing that is not disputed — people are clicking the “check in” button and posting messages of solidarity on Standing Rock’s Facebook wall. However, some posts reveal the underlying reason why, which may or may not be based in truth:

“The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at Standing Rock in order to target them in attempts to disrupt the prayer camps. SO Water Protecters are calling on EVERYONE to check-in at Standing Rock, ND to overwhelm and confuse them. This is concrete action that can protect people putting their bodies and well-beings on the line that we can do without leaving our homes”

This wouldn’t be the first time law enforcement has used social media in its favor, but are they really doing so to track down prayer camps? Even more importantly, would mass check-ins “overwhelm and confuse” anyone? The Standing Rock page hasn’t provided comment, but Snopes did some digging and found that the claim is unproven:

We contacted the department about the rumor, and an officer explained not only that they were not using Facebook check-ins as a gauge of anything, but that the metric presented no intelligence value to them. The rumor suggested that protesters cited Facebook check-ins as a manner in which police could target them, but check-ins were voluntary — and if police were using geolocation tools based on mobile devices, remote check-ins would not confuse or overwhelm them.

Well, this seems to be a viral ruse but a harmless one. Folks are expressing solidarity with Standing Rock, although virtual check-ins are just that. Still, any support is better than no support at all, especially for folks who’d love to join the protests but are geographically hindered.

(Via Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Facebook & Snopes)

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