The vast number of social media check-ins at Standing Rock are appreciated by the demonstrators they are protecting, however, the dangers they face are larger than that.
The Standing Rock Indian Reservation is one of the most visited locations on Facebook. The kicker is, a precious few are actually present. In a grand showing of social media activism, the many are protecting the few, creating an electronic buffer around those who are protesting the Dakota Access pipeline.
The call to arms was trumpeted by anonymous lips, the note echoing through the hollow depths of social media: “Water Protecters are calling on EVERYONE to check-in at Standing Rock, ND to overwhelm and confuse them.” While the origin is not known, the effect is, with the number of check-ins growing from 140,000 to 870,000 yesterday afternoon. The plot was hatched when it became known that the local law may be using Facebook to locate people in the protest zone.
Many news outlets have reported the Facebook tracking as a hoax, as the Morton County Department busted the movement (via Facebook):
However, the above doesn’t seem to matter as the support, even if the blanket is unnecessary, is welcome, with those fighting the pipeline returning fire via their own post:
The subtextual plot of the whole situation seems to be “Facebook,” but the facts be this: demonstrators have stood at Standing Rock since April in an effort to protest a pipeline that they claim could desecrate tribal lands and damage their drinking water.
The situation came to a bloodied head last week when 141 people were arrested after law enforcement, with aid of riot gear and auditory weapons, descended on the site. From a height of 5,000 protesters to roughly 1,500 protesters as this sentence is typed.
While those who remain point to the low-flying helicopters with midnight spotlight sorties as what they fear the most, the general social media support has been noticed with Wiyaka Eagleman, a member of the Sicangu Lakota, in speaking to The Guardian described the check-ins as “a form of support” but added, “It would be nice to have those people [really] here.”