Is the Standing Rock Facebook Check-In Real or Fake?

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A demonstrator holds up a placard in front of the White House in Washington, DC, September 13, 2016, as he an others gather to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A call for Facebook users to “check-in” at Standing Rock, North Dakota in order to confuse the Morton County Sheriff’s Department with fake geotargets allegedly aims to help Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protesters. Is it real or fake?

Snopes, a “website covering urban legends, Internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of unknown or questionable origin” investigated this morning. They have updated their findings to be an ambiguous “Unproven.”

However, “real” or not, thousands of people across the globe are now participating to show their solidarity with the people of Standing Rock. As of this morning, nearly 130,000 Facebook users have “checked in” there. It is unknown what the number started at, but a 2000 census put the population at less than 10,000.

The official Facebook page of the Standing Rock Sioux has not commented on the call to action when Facebook users began to check into Standing Rock in Cannon Ball, North Dakota this morning.

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The check-in is usually accompanied by a claim stating that the Morton County Sheriff’s Department is using Facebook check-ins for geotargeting protesters. The most common text reads:

“The Morton County Sherriff’s Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at Randing Stock 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 (which you should be doing)
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”

The viral social media movement follows the ongoing protests in North Dakota. Standing Rock Sioux are currently protesting the extension of the DAPL. NPR reports that “Energy Transfer Partners is trying to build a $3.8 billion pipeline to shuttle more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day across four states.” NBC adds that the 1,172-mile pipeline “would offer the fastest route to bring Bakken shale oil from North Dakota to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries” but would not only pass through the only source of potable water for the Standing Rock Sioux nation, but would also violate several of their sacred sites.

The months-long protest made headlines this past weekend when The Los Angeles Times reported that arrested protesters were marked with numbers and kept in dog kennels. Advocates of the Native American cause likened the numbering of people with markers and their inhumane imprisonment to how Jewish people were treated during Nazi Germany.