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Why are Facebook users checking in to Standing Rock Indian Reservation?

If you've been on Facebook Monday, you might have noticed an influx of friends who are suddenly checking in to North Dakota's Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

Hundreds of people took to the social media site to stand in digital solidarity with demonstrators protesting the construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline in Morton County, North Dakota.  Authorities dressed in riot gear last week arrested more than 140 protesters, NPR reported.

>> Read more trending stories

The check-ins appear to stem from rumors that the Morton County Sheriff's Department has been using Facebook's check-in feature to identify the protesters in an attempt to disrupt their demonstrations. It's unclear whether deputies are using social media to identify people, although the tactic is not unheard of in law enforcement.

A viral plea posted on Facebook asked users to help stymie police efforts with a simple check-in:

"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."

Whether the post will have any effect on the protests remains to be seen.

Sheriff's deputies said in a Facebook post Monday that they do not follow Facebook check-ins as part of their duties.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); = id;  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> In response to the latest rumor / false claim circulating on social media we have the following response: The Morton...Posted by Morton County Sheriff's Department on Monday, October 31, 2016

 Authorities told Snopes the posts contribute nothing to investigations.

"Check-ins were voluntary, and there was no reason to believe folks would continue to check in if it presented that risk," according to Snopes.

The myth-busting site also contacted Sacred Stone Camp, a large camp housing protesters, to determine whether organizers from the campsite were responsible for the viral post.

 "There is no solid line between 'organizers' and 'others' -- this is a movement, not an organization," a representative told Snopes. "There are many camps and points of contact. We can only verify that it did not originate from the Sacred Stone Camp FB page. We support the tactic, and think it is a great way to express solidarity."

The Facebook check-in can show solidarity, but it's unlikely to have any effect on protests on the ground.

Ghosts invade Magic Cat Academy in Halloween Google Doodle game

Google is celebrating Halloween with an interactive game about a spell-casting cat who uses her powers to defeat ghosts after they invade the Magic Cat Academy.

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The Google Doodle follows Momo the cat as she casts spells to defeat the school's attackers and recover a master spell book over the course of five levels. Players vanquish ghosts by drawing symbols that appear over the phantoms' heads.

"Doodling for a whole Doodle game was very exciting for us," the team behind the Halloween Doodle wrote in a blog post. "We had so many ideas for elaborate symbols to draw, like a witch's hat that would appear on the character's head after it was drawn! In the end we decided that for a short game against the clock, simple was better."

The feline protagonist was inspired by Momo, a real-life black cat owned by one of Google's Doodlers. Originally, developers envisioned having a magic cat make a soup so good it raised the dead, but they opted instead for a cat at a magic school.

"Connecting soup to Halloween proved too abstract, so the team shifted to the idea of a wizard school," the team said. "This opened the door to a more robust world filled with interesting characters and paw-some themes."

Magic Cat Academy can be played on Google.

Facebook under fire for reportedly letting advertisers exclude users by 'ethnic affinity'

Facebook is under fire after a new report claimed that the social networking site lets advertisers exclude people with certain "ethnic affinities" from receiving their ads.

ProPublica reported Friday that it was able to buy a housing-related ad on Facebook that "excluded anyone with an 'affinity' for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people." 

>> Airbnb requires hosts to agree to new nondiscrimination policy

John Relman, a civil rights lawyer, called the practice "horrifying."

"This is massively illegal," Relman told ProPublica. "This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”

Under the Fair Housing Act, ads for housing or employment cannot discriminate "based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin."

According to BuzzFeed, a representative for Facebook said ProPublica's ad wasn't for housing but for a housing-related event.

>> Read more trending stories

"All major brands have strategies to speak to different audiences with culturally relevant creative," the spokesman told BuzzFeed.

Steve Satterfield, Facebook's privacy and public policy manager, said company "policies prohibit using our target options to discriminate, and they require compliance with the law." He also told ProPublica that "ethnic affinity" is not race.

Read more here.

Facebook launches Halloween-themed reactions, filters

Nine months since Facebook launched its reactions feature, it's getting into the Halloween spirit.

The original Facebook reactions have undergone creepy makeovers.

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The social media site announced the reactions Thursday along with a mask feature in Facebook live.

"We’re launching a set of limited-edition Halloween reactions that turn the Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry reactions into Halloween-themed symbols that come to life when you tap on them," a blog post from Facebook said.

Related: Facebook reactions are here: What you need to know

The like and love reactions remain the same, but the haha reaction becomes a cackling witch, the wow reaction becomes a ghost, the sad reaction becomes Frankenstein's monster, and the angry reaction becomes a sinister-looking pumpkin.

Masks on Facebook live are similar to Snapchat filters. Users broadcasting a live Facebook video can tap a magic wand icon and select a mask to digitally cover their face.

The masks are a new feature for Facebook Live, but Halloween-themed ones -- a pumpkin and a witch -- will only be available for the holiday.

Watch a video of the features in action below:

Self-driving truck makes 120-mile trek, delivers beer

Otto and Anheuser-Busch announced Tuesday that the two companies have completed the world’s first commercial shipment by self-driving truck.

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>> Watch the video here

Otto’s self-driving truck hauled a fully loaded trailer of Budweiser beer more than 120 miles on I-25 from Fort Collins, Colorado, through Denver, to Colorado Springs.

A professional truck driver was in the vehicle for the entire route, monitoring the delivery from the sleeper berth as the truck completed the route entirely on its own, without any driver intervention.

>> Read more trending stories

The load originated at Anheuser-Busch’s facility in Loveland, Colorado, and departed for its journey from the Fort Collins, Colorado, weigh station.

This milestone marks the first time in history that a self-driving vehicle has shipped commercial cargo, making it a landmark achievement for self-driving technology, the state of Colorado and the transportation industry, according to Anheuser-Busch.

Report: Facebook employees argued to ban Trump posts as hate speech

Some of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's Facebook posts sparked a heated debate among employees over whether his comments constitute hate speech and violate the site's terms of use, according to a report published Friday by The Wall Street Journal.

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Citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation, the newspaper reported that complaints centered around "certain posts about banning Muslims from entering the U.S." The debate was officially settled in December, when Facebook CEO determined that censoring Trump would be "inappropriate."

"That decision has prompted employees across the company to complain on Facebook's internal messaging service and in person to Mr. Zuckerberg and other managers that it was bending the site's rules for Mr. Trump, and some employees who work in a group charged with reviewing content on Facebook threatened to quit," according to The Wall Street Journal.

The social network announced in a news release Friday that it would be slackening some of its community standards in order to allow people to post and share newsworthy but controversial subjects.

"In the weeks ahead, we're going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant or important to the public interest – even if they might otherwise violate our standards," the statement said. "We will work with our community and partners to explore exactly how to do this through new tools and approaches to enforcement."

The company said it is focused on allowing users to share more controversial stories while still protecting minors and others from seeing graphic, inappropriate content. Facebook said it would do so with input from experts, law enforcement officials and others.

According to a study published in May 2016 by the Pew Research Center, about 62 percent of adults in America get their news from social media. Facebook is widely regarded as the most popular site. About 44 percent of Americans get their news from the social media site, according to Pew.

Homeland Security investigating after massive cyber attacks take down sites across the internet

Federal officials are monitoring reports of at least two cyber attacks that took down pages and services across the internet on Friday. One of the attacks is ongoing as of 2 p.m. EDT.

>> Read more trending stories

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Department of Homeland Security, which monitors cyber threats against the United States, is monitoring the situation.

"At this point, I don't have any information to share about who might be responsible for this malicious activity," Earnest said.

>> Related: Twitter, Spotify among major websites down Friday morning

The outages appear to have stemmed from dedicated denial of service (DDOS) attacks levied against Dyn Inc., one of the world's foremost providers of internet services. The company runs domain name servers, known commonly as DNS, which provide infrastructure for internet services.

"They (DNS) work as a phone book or map to the internet, making sure that when someone writes an address into their computer or phone, it can be directed to the right place and show the right information," The Independent reported.

>> Related: Russian hackers release information about 25 more Olympic athletes

Dyn confirmed that it started monitoring and fighting an attack on its infrastructure around 7 a.m. The company announced that services has been restored by 9:20 a.m.

However, a second attack was reported just before 12 p.m., again targeting Dyn's infrastructure.

"Our engineers continue to investigate and mitigate several attacks aimed against the Dyn Managed DNS infrastructure," the company said in an update posted just before 2 p.m.

>> Related: FBI investigating Democratic National Committee hack

It was not immediately clear whether the attacks were related.

Dyn is based in New Hampshire; However, it provides services for multiple U.S.-based sites, and the attack on its servers caused issues loading the American sites in parts of Europe, Japan and other places, according to outage maps from Down Detector.

>> Related: WikiLeaks emails: FBI investigates, Podesta claims he was targeted by Russian hackers

A DDOS attack occurs when a website gets an influx of requests meant to overload the site and make it inaccessible.

Toddlers OK'd to video-chat in new recommendations from pediatricians

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Friday announced updated recommendations for parents hoping to shield their children from the worst effects of new technologies.

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The group released its recommendations after reviewing the latest scientific evidence on children and digital media use. Among other suggestions, the AAP said toddlers should be limited to using screens only while video-chatting.

The organization has traditionally recommended toddlers stay away from using screens at all until they become 2 years old. The guideline was first set out in 1999, according to NPR.

Studies indicate that despite the 1999 recommendation, most families operate under the assumption that applications like Skype and FaceTime “don't count.”

In a policy statement, AAP cautiously agreed and cited emerging evidence that young children can learn some words while video-chatting “with a responsive adult.”

The organization warned, however, that scientific evidence shows there is still harm caused by “excessive digital media use.”

"What's most important is that parents be their child's 'media mentor,'” Dr. Jenny Radesky, lead author of the policy statement, said in a news release. “That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn."

The following recommendations were made by AAP:

For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing. For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them. For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.

To support the recommendations, the group also launched an online digital media use planning tool on its website.

Twitter, Spotify among major websites down Friday morning

You may have had issues checking your Twitter feed Friday morning and you weren't alone. 

According to the website, widespread reports around New England showed sites like Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, SoundCloud and Tumblr were out of service for Friday morning. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The sweeping outage is being blamed on a DDOS attack against a Dyn DNS, a service provider based in Manchester, N.H., according to TechCrunch

The domain name system (DNS) service provides domain registration and other online infrastructure support for many major websites. 

A DDOS (Dedicated Denial of Service) occurs when a website receives more requests than its host can process, some use this as a method of attacking websites or web hosts by sending a massive number of requests. 

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