UPDATE -- 4:03 p.m.
Law enforcement officials told the New York Times that they have never relied on social media to locate and track suspects so the Facebook check-ins at Standing Rock, North Dakota, have not changed the way they work.
"The Morton County Sheriff's Department is not and does not follow Facebook check-ins for the protest camp or any location. This claim/rumor is absolutely false," the Morton County Sheriff's Department wrote on Facebook.
If you're seeing posts like this all over your timeline, here's why.
What's all this about?
A lot of people have started checking into Standing Rock, N.D. Their goal, according to a viral Facebook post, is to "confuse" the Morton County Sheriff's Department, which has allegedly been using Facebook check-ins to target protesters.
So if you see posts that say "Check into Standing Rock to show solidarity with activists. The sheriffs dept is using check-ins to target activists on the ground, but if we all check in it makes it more difficult" or use the hashtag #nodapl, that's why.
So... does this work?
In short, no.
Anyone can check in by typing a Facebook status and tapping the "check in" field. Facebook doesn't restrict anyone based on their actual location, so anyone can "check in" to Standing Rock from anywhere.
Snopes reports deputies are not using Facebook in any way for the protest, nor do the check-ins matter.,
It's the thought that counts
Furthermore if police were using geolocation tools to monitor the check-ins, there's no way people could overwhelm their software without using powerful hacking tools like a DDoS attack.
Circa called Morton County Sheriff's Office to comment on this story, but our call was not returned.
Sacred Stone Camp, a protest group, said the check-ins were "a great way to express solidarity.
Hey folks, ✅ in to Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Facebook to throw the Sheriff's Dept. off the scent of protesters ✅'d in there! 👍🤘👌— John DiMaggio (@TheJohnDiMaggio) October 31, 2016
Whether or not this works, it caught on quickly.
This "change your location to Standing Rock on Facebook" thing has all the ingredients of a viral hoax. Thoughts?— wikipedia brown (@eveewing) October 31, 2016
And despite all the enthusiasm, some seemed suspicious.
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