Claims About Facebook Check In Prove Inaccurate

Many people have been checking in on Facebook at the Sacred Stone Camp as many protestors are claiming that, “The Morton County Sherriff’s Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at Randing Stock 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 seemed strange, as the feature is primarily designed for public safety and rapid response in the wake of natural disasters—but the prevalence of fake news perpetrating Facebook is well known.

Snopes examined the claim and found conflicting reports:

“Also of note was a hallmark of “slacktivism” type activity in the viral message, “[t]his is concrete action that can protect people putting their bodies and well-beings on the line that we can do without leaving our homes.” Underneath the claim lay a genuine problem with the message, that people truly wishing to assist the protesters could do so simply by checking in rather than sending funds or supplies to support their efforts. Moreover, its spread didn’t account for the possibility protest organizers might have themselves been thwarted by a since-flooded Facebook stream to manage operations on their end.

The largest question to hand was whether the base claim was true — did checking in at Standing Rock genuinely work to thwart the Morton County Sheriff’s Departments attempts to target and surveil demonstrators? We contacted the Department about the rumor and a public information officer explained not only that they were not using Facebook check ins as a gauge of anything, but that the metric presented to intelligence value whatsoever. The latter assertion in particular was worth considering; the rumor suggested that protesters cited Facebook check ins as a manner in which police could target them. But check ins were voluntary, and there was no reason to believe folks would continue to check in if it presented that risk. If police were using geolocation tools based on mobile devices, remote check ins would neither confuse nor overwhelm them. No evidence we could locate supported either scenario — that police were using Facebook to target individuals at Standing Rock, or using mobile geolocation services to covertly track anyone’s activity.”

This Halloween, make sure you don’t get tricked as well.