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A group of protesters opposing the creation of an oil pipeline in North Dakota want your help—and all you have to do is login to Facebook.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is fighting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.7 billion oil pipeline that would transport crude oil from North Dakota to a processing center in Illinois, because they believe it threatens their water supply and sacred lands.
For months, protesters supporting the Standing Rock Sioux have clashed with local police, who on Thursday and Friday arrested 142 activists fighting against the pipeline construction. Now, the protesters, dubbed the Water Protectors, are hoping to get an upper hand on law enforcement by calling on “everyone” to “overwhelm and confuse” the police with Facebook location check-ins.
In addition to encouraging people to check-in at Standing Rock, North Dakota, the protesters are asking people to separately share the following message with their friends and followers:
“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 Protecters [sic] 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?”
The Standing Rock Indian Reservation’s Facebook page shows a flood of people posting this message and others in support of their cause.
Police regularly use social media as a tool for identifying illegal activity, with some police departments purchasing software that allows them to better surveil Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for relevant information, including location check-ins. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has denied tracking protesters through Facebook.
“The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is not and does not follow Facebook check-ins for the protest camp or any location,” the department wrote on its Facebook page. “This claim/rumor is absolutely false.”
In another show of support for the protesters, internet users have donated more than $1 million to a GoFundMe campaign, started by protester Ho Waste Wakiya Wicasa, who says the funds will be used to supply the protester camp where more than 650 people are currently living.
The Standing Rock Sioux are currently embroiled in a legal battle with Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company building the Dakota Access Pipeline. The tribe hopes to block the company’s federal permits to build.
Update 12:24pm CT, Oct. 31: CNN’s Selena Larson (formerly a Daily Dot reporter) says the Morton County Sheriff’s Department denies tracking protesters via Facebook.
Morton County Sheriff’s Department just texted me to say they aren’t tracking protestors via FB posts. Re: that viral NODAPL post.
— Selena Larson (@selenalarson) October 31, 2016
Update 1:50pm CT, Oct. 31: Added comment from Morton County Sheriff’s Department.
Andrew Couts is the former editor of Layer 8, a section dedicated to the intersection of the Internet and the state—and the gaps in between. Prior to the Daily Dot, Couts served as features editor and features writer for Digital Trends, associate editor of TheWeek.com, and associate editor at Maxim magazine. When he’s not working, Couts can be found hiking with his German shepherds or blasting around on motorcycles.