The Morton County Sheriff's Department – the local agency responding to Standing Rock DAPL protests in North Dakota – has been using Facebook for the past few months to put out photos and statements about the clashes there.
But if you tried to check it over the weekend, all you got was the standard Facebook "Sorry, this content isn't available right now" message. The page was gone.
Instead, when you searched for "Morton County Sheriff Department," you got a handful of fake pages – including this one, which popped up a couple days after the real sheriff's office took down its legit Facebook page. This faux version takes the agency's name and logo, slaps some "Anonymous" imaging over it, and throws some inflammatory language in the about section. But a post notes they had nothing to do with the real page going down.
So what happened?
The department reactivated its Facebook page on Nov. 30, and said they "temporarily unpublished [its] Facebook" because it got to a point where they were "unable to keep up with activity on it." The page has been flooded with comments and replies for as long as the protests have been happening, many of them negative.
"We are republishing it at this time in the hopes of fostering positive dialogue with citizens of Morton County and beyond," the department wrote.
But some people are also suggesting (without firm evidence) an Anonymous group may have indeed hacked the page.
Twitter user Francis Materi, who writes for Central Dakota News, grabbed this screenshot on Nov. 27 that looks like the department's Facebook page had been hijacked.
But that was posted on Nov. 27, and the department's Facebook page wasn't available back on Nov. 25, according to this tweet and others.
And on Nov. 24, a YouTube account that ties itself to the hacker group posted a video calling out the Morton County Sheriff's Department. But it's unclear whether that YouTube account is legitimately part of Anonymous, and whether it's at all tied to a rumored Facebook hack.
The SayAnything blog got a hold of a Morton County Sheriff's Department spokesperson, who told the site the official Facebook page was not hacked. The spokesperson said anything showing otherwise is probably a faked version of the page.
Since we can't see the URL on the photo tweeted above, it's impossible to tell.
The real page has been https://www.facebook.com/MortonCountySD/ – one of the fake pages swaps the "S" for an "N." If someone copied and saved all the correct imaging, it wouldn't be hard to make a fake page that looked legitimate outside of the URL.
The real sheriff's department page is also verified. But when you're looking at a photo or status update, the gray checkmark doesn't appear next to the name. It's only on the home page. Here's an example:
What's happening on the real Facebook page
Whatever the case, the Morton County Sheriff's Department page was down from Nov. 25-30, but is now back up. And with a concerted public relations effort.
That message, by the way, has more than 2,500 comments. And most of them are angry.