Depending on the political leanings and gullibility factor of your Facebook friends, it’s likely you’ve seen quite a few of your mates “check in” to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, often with a message like “solidarity!”. The posts are in relation to a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is to be built from the Bakken oilfield in North Dakota almost to Chicago and would cross the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Those “checking in” to Standing Rock then follow the post with an explanation:

“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 Protectors 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. Will you join me in Standing Rock?

If you’re sharing your location at Randing Stock
1) make it public
2) make the clarification post separate, and so that only your friends can see it
3) don’t clarify on your check in, message friends who say ‘stay safe!’ to let them know what’s up — the stay safe posts are more convincing / confusing for p*lice
4) copy paste to share clarification messages (like this one) because making it public blows our cover
5) say ‘Randing Stock’ in clarification posts so that when they filter out / search those terms, your post is visible to the right people”

So are the Morton County Sheriff’s Department using Facebook to track protesters? According to Snopes, the sherriff’s department isn’t using Facebook to track protesters, and the check-in function is of no use to police. The protesters at the Sacred Stone camp also say the posts did not originate with them and it’s unlikely that the check-ins are helping the cause — except for raising publicity of the issue.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.