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Why your Facebook friends are checking in at Standing Rock

Why your Facebook friends are checking in at Standing Rock


And why it’s not as disruptive as they think

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Sen. Bernie Sanders Leads Rally Against The Dakota Access Pipeline
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Your Facebook friends aren’t actually all in North Dakota today.

The Standing Rock Indian Reservation is currently at the center of a controversy centered on members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe protesting the proposed oil Dakota Access Pipeline. Protests have carried on for several months, though tensions have been especially high as of late. Just last week, police used non-lethal tactics such as pepper spray and rubber bullets to dispel protestors; 141 people were arrested.

Today on Facebook, efforts to disrupt police intervention went viral with the following instructions circling on Facebook. The message urges users to check-in to the location in an effort to “overwhelm and confuse” officers.

Facebook introduced its check-in feature in 2010. It works similar to Foursquare: users can check into places to inform friends and family where they are. According to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, however, people using this system may be wasting their time. The department denies that it’s tracking these check-ins. “The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is not monitoring Facebook check-ins for the protest camp or any location for that matter,” a spokeswoman told The Verge. “These rumors/claims are completely false.”  

The Camp of the Sacred Stones, one of the organizations calling for an end to the pipeline, told The Verge that while it supports the tactic as a way of showing solidarity, this method did not originate from the organization.

“This check in has created a huge influx of media attention that we appreciate,” a spokesperson told The Verge. “Our growing massive social media following plays a key role in this struggle. We have been ignored for the most part by mainstream media, yet we have hundreds of thousands of supporters from across the world. We appreciate a diversity of tactics and encourage people to come up with creative ways to act in solidarity, both online and as real physical allies.”

Regardless of where the rumor came from, it’s easy to see why this post went viral. The cause is a sympathetic one, and social media sites like Facebook make it easy to connect with almost no effort. Perhaps to a fault.

As the spokesperson put it: “The copy and paste technique has created a unique way of generating numbers of support — it's more impactful to see thousands of our friends take the time to create a unique status update.”