I’m generally opposed to flat-out fabrication as a way of generating attention but I’ve got to hand it to whoever created this brilliant bit of viral attention grabbing that had Facebook blowing up all day long with people “checking in” at the Standing Rock protests to “confuse law enforcement” that was allegedly using FB to track the real protesters.
ORIGIN:On 31 October 2016, a viral Facebook status meme began circulating, claiming that the Morton County Sheriff’s Department was using Facebook check-ins to target and disrupt prayer camps at Standing Rock protests.
The rumor involved a two-part status update, along with a message that the actions described would “confuse” or “overwhelm” police officers in their purported attempts to target individual demonstrators:
“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 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 Standing Stock:
1) Make it public.
2) Make the clarification post SEPARATE, and limit post visibility to your friends only.
3) Don’t clarify on your check-in post; privately message friends who say “stay safe!” to let them know what’s up.
4) Copy/paste to share clarification messages (like this one) because making it public blows our cover.
5) Use an alternate name in clarification posts so that when they filter out / search those terms, your post is visible to the right people.”
Let’s talk for a second about the obvious flaw in this logic: If the problem is that law enforcement is using FB to track protesters at Standing Rock the OBVIOUS solution would be for those protestors to stay off social media. In fact, anyone serious about avoiding being tracked would stay off the phones entirely, not just FB. But that’s in the hands of the people on the ground.
But the brilliance in the FB hoax, is that it has gotten thousands, maybe millions of people to TAKE ACTION. And when you get people to take action, no matter how small or meaningless, it gets them INVESTED in your cause. Everyone who checked in at Standing Rock today even though they’re really at a strip mall in Indiana is going to care more about Standing Rock tomorrow and keep paying attention. Even IF what they did had zero impact on law enforcement. This BUYING IN through simply updating a FB status makes people who do it remotely feel and experience something that was previously distant to them.
And, in this case, I think that’s a good thing.