MORTON COUNTY, N.D. - If you've been on Facebook Monday, you might have noticed an influx of friends who are suddenly checking in to North Dakota's Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
Hundreds of people took to the social media site to stand in digital solidarity with demonstrators protesting the construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline in Morton County, North Dakota. Authorities dressed in riot gear last week arrested more than 140 protesters, NPR reported.
The check-ins appear to stem from rumors that the Morton County Sheriff's Department has been using Facebook's check-in feature to identify the protesters in an attempt to disrupt their demonstrations. It's unclear whether deputies are using social media to identify people, although the tactic is not unheard of in law enforcement.
A viral plea posted on Facebook asked users to help stymie police efforts with a simple check-in:
"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 Standing Stock:
1) Make it public.
2) Make the clarification post SEPARATE, and limit post visibility to your friends only.
3) Don't clarify on your check-in post; privately message friends who say "Stay safe!" to let them know what's up.
4) Copy/paste to share clarification messages (like this one) because making it public blows our cover.
5) Use an alternate name in clarification posts so that when they filter out/search those terms, your post is visible to the right people."
Whether the post will have any effect on the protests remains to be seen.
Sheriff's deputies said in a Facebook post Monday that they do not follow Facebook check-ins as part of their duties.
Authorities told Snopes the posts contribute nothing to investigations.
"Check-ins were voluntary, and there was no reason to believe folks would continue to check in if it presented that risk," according to Snopes.
The myth-busting site also contacted Sacred Stone Camp, a large camp housing protesters, to determine whether organizers from the campsite were responsible for the viral post.
"There is no solid line between 'organizers' and 'others' -- this is a movement, not an organization," a representative told Snopes. "There are many camps and points of contact. We can only verify that it did not originate from the Sacred Stone Camp FB page. We support the tactic, and think it is a great way to express solidarity."
The Facebook check-in can show solidarity, but it's unlikely to have any effect on protests on the ground.
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