Standing Rock and Social Media

Today we’re talking about the impact social media has had on the Standing Rock protests here in America.

Since the spring, thousands have flocked to a campsite in North Dakota where an oil pipeline is under construction.  The protesters argue that the pipeline endangers the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux (pronounced “sue”), a native American tribe of around 10,000 people.   It’s also being built across one of their sacred burial sites, which the tribe says was done without their permission.  You can read all about the protests in more detail on our blog.

The protests were not getting a lot of media coverage in the United States until a post went viral on social media.  It said that the local sheriff’s department was using Facebook check-ins at the campsite to target protesters.  The post urged supporters to check-in at the campsite, no matter where they were in the world, in an attempt to overwhelm and confuse law enforcement.  By the end of the day, the number of check-ins had gone from 140,000 to over 1 million.

The sheriff’s department has since said they were never using social media to target protesters, and critics say the check-in protest didn’t actually accomplish anything.  Supporters argue that, if anything, the check-ins showed there was public support for the protesters and their cause.

So our Question of the Week is this: do you think these social media protests accomplish anything, or is it just a way for people to feel good without actually taking action?

Matt’s Take: The check-in protest hasn’t stopped the pipeline from being built, but it did raise awareness of the issue and allowed people to show their support even if they couldn’t travel to the protest site.  Ideally, people would follow-up these social media movements with some sort of real action, like donating time or money, but it’s unfair to say that protesting on social media is useless, because ultimately it’s another way for the people’s voices to be heard.

Kat’s Take: In this day and age when almost everyone is on Twitter and/or Facebook, I think social media protests are a good thing. It’s a great way to reach out and get involved with social movements no matter where you reside. We live in a world now where we are connected 24/7 thanks to social media and I see it as a tool to reach out and help more of our global family. 

Learn more about the Standing Rock movement at


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