By Eric Pfeiffer, GOOD.is
Over the past few days you may have noticed a lot of friends in your Facebook feed checking in to a small location in North Dakota.
North Dakota hasn’t suddenly become a top vacation destination point for millennial hipsters, though we’d gladly spend a day taking in the Plains Art Museum.
But what’s actually going on is kind of amazing and a great example of using social media to lend a hand in activism.
In case you hadn’t already heard, there’s a major ongoing protest happening at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where Native Americans are hoping to stop the planned expansion of an oil pipeline that would run right through their tribal lands. Last week, the Morton County Sheriff's Department began an effort to physically remove protestors from the location, causing a huge surge in the number of people coming to the site to join in the demonstrations, including prominent figures like actor Mark Ruffalo and political activist Jesse Jackson.
Activists have been using a Facebook loophole which allows users to check-in anywhere in the world even if they aren’t physically there at the time of the check-in. In the past, that’s made it easy for someone to tag photos or let people know about a place they recently visited. But now it’s become a calling card for the pipeline protest itself.
Along with the growing protest, an unverified rumor began circulating that the local police were using Facebook to identify protestors at the site and arrest them, something Morton County vigorously denies.
And while no one knows exactly how the Facebook check-in phenomenon started, it seems like thousands of people decided to start tagging their location to the protest to disrupt any potential data mining being used by law enforcement to shut down the protests.
Ultimately, this is a win-win for the protestors. Even if police aren’t trolling Facebook to track down protestors, the display has generated coverage from several national news organizations and is bringing even more attention to the protests.