Why Everyone Is Checking Into Standing Rock, North Dakota on Facebook

It's apparently a way to throw off the local police department.

Getty Images / Alex Wong

Facebook users have begun to check into Standing Rock, North Dakota, even if they aren’t actually at the location to support protestors. This is apparently a tactic to confuse the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which has been facing off against those physically trying to block the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

So why have people from all over been checking in to Standing Rock, even if they’re in Boston or New York or Oklahoma City? The department has allegedly been using Facebook check-ins to target people.

Starting Sunday night and gaining steam the next morning, people have started posting Facebook check-ins at Standing Rock and encouraging others to do the same. A post making the rounds reads, “The Morton County sheriff’s department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at Standing Rock and target them to disrupt the prayer camps. Water protectors are asking people to check in to overwhelm and confuse the police using this tactic. #NoDAPL”

Several variations of the status have also started popping up, which is common when viral statuses like this catch on. Some of them explain that the call for check-ins to be shared to “friend only” while the check-in posts be made public. The ‪#‎NoDAPL‬ hashtag on Facebook is filled with these updates.


However, it’s unclear where exactly this movement has started since the posts simply attribute “Water Protectors” (another name for the advocates) as the people calling for this social media flooding. It’s a smart plan because there’s proof that police departments have used networks like Facebook and Twitter to target activist in the past.

Standing Rock protestors have used the internet to bring awareness to what’s happening in North Dakota. Some have used Facebook Live to live stream interactions with authorities.

It’s a dilemma for these advocates. On one hand, sharing to social media lets people from all over see what’s really going on and receive updates. But at the same time, it might make them targets for people trying to keep what’s going under wraps.

The flurry of Facebook check-ins makes sense as a ploy to keep police officers from knowing who’s actually at the protests. But a quick glance at a person’s profile can give insight to whether or not they’re likely actually in North Dakota.

However, some people are skeptical about the validity of the viral movement. Sociologist Eve Ewing tweeted about the possibility that the check-ins and statuses are a hoax.

Others have also shared their thoughts as to why it’s possible that everyone’s just been deceived.

Fake chain posts like these aren’t new to the social network. Every so often comes along a Facebook post that users need to copy and paste to their own profiles to keep their information safe or keep from having their account deleted.

The current Standing Rock check-ins are a little bit different, though. It’s encouraging to see so many people attempting to help protestors. But of course, it’s fairly easy to simply post a check-in on Facebook. Meanwhile, people have been on the front lines protesting for weeks. It’s another one of those situations where how much does contributing to a hashtag really do.

Last week, tensions escalated as police officers in riot gear and military vehicles ousted protestors fighting back against the 1,200-mile pipeline that would possibly endanger sites culturally important to Native people. In an attempt to keep the authorities from moving forward, protestors have stood in the roadways and built roadblocks. The Los Angeles Times reports that at least 141 people were arrested and there are claims of people being kept in dog kennels.