By Nicole Belair, Staff Writer
Tensions between law en-forcement and protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline heightened last week, as a Facebook campaign for the cause went viral.
For months, there have been relentless protests due to a proposal by energy company Dakota Access to construct a crude oil pipeline through Standing Rock. The pipeline would greatly affect the Sioux Tribe that lives in the area for a couple of reasons.
The tribe argues that the pipeline will threaten the reservation’s water supply, as well as interfere with culturally sacred sites. As one of the biggest Native American demonstrations in decades, it has received lots of attention and national support.
Hundreds of people have been arrested throughout the past few months for protesting and trespassing on private property. This tension between authorities and protestors led to a recent campaign on Facebook. The trend encouraged Facebook users to “check-in” to Standing Rock Indian Reservation. This was an attempt to confuse and throw-off the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, who had allegedly been using social media to arrest pipeline protesters at the scene.
I had over a hundred of my Facebook friends “checking in” to the Reservation on Monday, October 31. I was admittedly a little confused at first, especially because other friends who were in on the campaign would comment things like, “Be safe!” I thought I missed some giant road trip to North Dakota.
However, several reports within the next few days explained that this campaign was likely nothing more than a hoax. Snopes, an online resource for rumor research, stated that they reached out to the the Morton County Sheriff’s Department to get their insight.
First, an officer explained to Snopes that the authorities weren’t even using Facebook check-ins to gauge who was there and who wasn’t. Check-ins are voluntary, so most protesters wouldn’t have checked-in in the first place.
Second, if the police were using geolocation technology to track mobile devices, the remote check-ins would not confuse them. I can only assume that their technology would be high quality, and could easily filter what is an authentic check-in versus what has been posted elsewhere.
That second point was my main thought as I scrolled through dozens of check-ins on my newsfeed. Wouldn’t the cops be able to tell who was legitimately in North Dakota and who was posting from somewhere else? (Not to mention, comments from confused grandparents gave them away, too).
Regardless, it was incredibly inspiring to see a bunch of people from the opposite side of the country come together to try to help out the Sioux tribe.
Most of them aren’t directly affected by the pipeline at all, but it’s heartwarming and refreshing to see people joining together to help one another. Members of some of the protest groups in Standing Rock also pointed out that it was a “great way to express solidarity” with the pipeline protest.
So, maybe the Facebook campaign didn’t effectively confuse the Sheriff’s Department. However, with over one million check-ins at Standing Rock, the social media platform provided a way for the topic to become more of a national conversation.
Even if we’re not camping out on the front lines over in North Dakota, it’s still significant to stand up for a cause we believe in, in whatever way we possibly can.