If you logged into Facebook this morning, you may have noticed that many of your friends are checking into locations within and around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation — despite actually being hundreds of miles away from North Dakota.
The geographically perplexing check-ins are no accident. Amid a police crackdown on demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline, social media users are rallying together to aid protesters on the front lines. The Facebook check-ins were devised in response to reports that the Morton County Sheriff's Department has been using Facebook and other social media to target and arrest protestors. The hope is that, with an influx of people checking into Standing Rock, authorities won't be able to tell who is really there and who isn't.
In separate posts, people are writing explanatory breakdowns of why they are checking in to the reservation, swapping in the words "Randing Stock" as a codename for "Standing Rock" in the hopes of avoiding detection.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.8 billion dollar project that hopes to transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil from western North Dakota to Illinois every day. Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company building the pipeline, insists it is safe, but opponents of the project disagree. They say it threatens to contaminate the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, as well as damage ancient burial sites.
Hundreds of those protesters, including actress Shailene Woodley, have been arrested onsite. Many of them have been photographing and live streaming their encounters with police directly to Facebook and Twitter, which has prompted an outpouring of support across social media platforms. Although Snopes noted that it's unlikely that the Facebook check-ins themselves will hinder police efforts, money raised for a protest fund via social media has eclipsed one million dollars.
Ted Skaarup, a 33-year-old attorney from Easton, Pennsylvania, checked into Standing Rock Indian Reservation without actually being there. He told A Plus he had seen a few friends with young children check in and thought it was unlikely that they were physically present at the protests. When he looked into the check-ins, he realized they were a diversion tactic.
"I don't know if it'll actually make a difference as far as folks monitoring social media to crack down or infiltrate organizers," Skaarup said. "But I figure big numbers can have a strong rhetorical effect for potentially sympathetic policy-makers... It seemed like (quite literally) the least I could do."
The protesters at Sacred Stone Camp clearly agree, describing the check-ins to Snopes as "a great way to express solidarity."
Cover photo: Flickr / Fibonacci Blue.