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Facebook check-ins to the "Standing Rock Indian Reservation" are well-intentioned and are giving water protectors a morale boost, but they are by no means confounding authorities.

DAPL: Facebook Check-ins Show Support But Do Not Confound Authorities

Theresa Braine

On the face of it, so to speak, more than a million people have suddenly traveled to North Dakota to stand with the water protectors looking to alter the route of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The reality, however, is proving more of a publicity draw than an actual red herring to confound authorities who might or might not be monitoring social media to locate potential protesters.

While it’s true that police have been using facial-recognition technology to identify people at protest sites, and that they are combing social media posts for people they deem to be potentially threatening, they are not literally identifying people who are at the camps. After all, they have constant overhead surveillance for that. And the two methods are not converging in a monitoring effort by North Dakota authorities.

RELATED: Militarization and Mistaken Identity: Police Crack Down on DAPL Protectors

Besides, the camps are not located at Standing Rock, so people checking into the Sacred Stone, Oceti Sakowin or Red Warrior camps are not necessarily passing within the reservation’s borders. Moreover, the Facebook page labeled as the Standing Rock Indian Reservation is an unofficial one generated solely by the level of interest in the term. It is not the Facebook page of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

So unlike what Vice News believes, the Morton County sheriff’s department is not “monitoring Facebook ‘check-ins' at the Indian reservation to get a sense of who’s protesting.” And while the check-in impetus is not—as the Los Angeles Times characterized it—a hoax, neither is it “a new weapon,” as CNN chose to term it. Even the well-known fact-checking site Snopes has labeled it “Unproven.”

Undeniable is the fact that on October 31, someone posted a status on Facebook reading, "The Morton County Sheriff's Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at SR [Standing Rock] in order to target them in attempts to disrupt the prayer camps.”

It urged people to check into the Standing Rock Reservation.

“SO Water Protectors are calling on EVERYONE to check-in at SR to overwhelm and confuse them.”

The page that comes up, however, is not related to the tribe. 

“This unofficial Page was created because people on Facebook have shown interest in this place or business,” says the disclaimer that drops down when one hovers one’s cursor over the “unofficial page” button. “It's not affiliated with or endorsed by anyone associated with Standing Rock Indian Reservation.”

Click on the tribe’s website as listed on that page, and a screen proclaiming “Privacy Error” comes up stating that “attackers might be trying to steal your information from (for example, passwords, messages or credit cards),” implying that you proceed at your own peril.

In other words, it’s most likely not a place that people traveling to Standing Rock—or “Randing Stock,” as the viral solidarity status says people should use in their private, restricted-to-friends explanatory, separate post—would even check into.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said it was definitively not checking up on people in this way.

“In response to the latest rumor / false claim circulating on social media we have the following response,” the department said in a statement that was itself posted on Facebook. “The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is not and does not follow Facebook check-ins for the protest camp or any location. This claim / rumor is absolutely false.”

Thus the initiative’s impact in terms of obfuscating police procedure will most likely be nil. But it is not without merit. While the origin of the post that started it all is not known, the attention is not unwelcome.

“The check-ins have created a huge influx of media attention that we appreciate,” said organizers of the Sacred Stone Camp on Facebook. “Our growing massive social media following plays a key role in this struggle. We have been ignored for the most part by mainstream media, yet we have hundreds of thousands of supporters from across the world. We appreciate a diversity of tactics and encourage people to come up with creative ways to act in solidarity, both online and as real physical allies.”

The check-ins come in the wake of an October 27 onslaught by militarized police against unarmed water protectors who were camped out in the path of construction for the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline being built by Energy Transfer Partners across four states. The next step, should the company receive the permits needed to cross under the Missouri River, is to finish routing the nearly completed pipeline a half mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation’s borders.

RELATED: Manning: Desecration, Mace and Police Snipers With Rifles at DAPL Front Lines

Conflicting Accounts Emerge After Treaty Camp Police Action

For those looking to register their displeasure with last week’s treatment of the water protectors, Sacred Stone recommended a number of ways to take concrete action, while also expressing support for the check-in impulse.

“We would like to see these thousands of people take physical action to demand that their banks divest, their police forces withdraw, and the Army Corps and Obama administration halt the construction of this pipeline,” the camp’s post said. “We'd also like to see people connect with indigenous and environmental struggles in their own bioregion. We'd like you to investigate and organize around your personal relationship to fossil fuel consumption and colonization.”

Dallas Goldtooth, the Keep It in the Ground organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, had a similar take.

“My thoughts: the ‘Checking in’ bit is a great, fun way of keeping folks engaged in the fight. It helps us keep the movement refreshed,” the member of the comedy troupe The 1491s wrote on Facebook. “It’s not the huge game changer you may think it is. Sorry to burst the bubble. But it sure as hell helps us feel the solidarity!”

That does not mean there is no surveillance, Goldtooth said. Not by a long shot.

“Real talk: We are being watched. By plane and helicopter. Our phones are tapped. Our text messages are being seen. Our social media is being mined for data and tracking. Our conversations are being logged by undercover cops,” he wrote. “This is all happening.”

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Danyelle Robinson
Danyelle Robinson
Submitted by Danyelle Robinson on
Moderator... Just FYI the facebook connection button is on the fritz, yet again.

Danyelle Robinson
Danyelle Robinson
Submitted by Danyelle Robinson on
I am thrilled to see the tribes coming together. Each time I stated that tribes are stronger together, I was told if the different clans and bands could come together they would have stopped Europeans at the Mississippi. So congratulations to organizers and all those who are supporting the cause. It's also great to see organizers using the opportunity to mobilize the masses in other areas around the US. Second, I want more facts. Like ... How did they get permission to develop on reservation land in the first place? Since there are burial sites why was NAGPRA not invoked earlier in an effort to stop the development? (Or was it?) Who issues the awaited permit and where is it in process? Where are tribal police while all of this is happening? I am aware of jurisdictional issues in Indian Country, but not familiar with the particulars of the Standing Rock treaty. (I covered the Northwest bureau when I worked for ICT nearly 20 years ago.) You might have addressed these in the early stories, so I apologize if this is a rehash. Often readers may not have read nor remember all the information from earlier stories a few months ago. A recap might be nice. Thanks

Submitted by khananel on
Back to the 19thC and the Indian Wars, while Manifest Destiny raises its ugly head in Europe. Wait til the nukes start flying...