Ray Hartley Editor: BusinessLIVE
Picture: AFP
Picture: AFP

In North Dakota, a battle over a pipeline, where protestors have emerged as the victors, has revealed the power of social media.

The oil pipeline has already been built, except for one segment under Lake Oahe, a US Army-controlled area on the Missouri River.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe objected to the pipeline because they believe it would contaminate water sources and violate sacred land. So they mobilised protests in the area where the pipeline was to be constructed, establishing a "camp" where protestors dug in.

But they didn’t stop there. A global social media campaign turned the effort to block the pipeline into an international issue.

Facebook posts went viral and Twitter was lit up with condemnation. People from all over the world "checked in" to the site of the protest, in an act of armchair solidarity.

The US Army’s Corps of Engineers finally caved in to the pressure and this week announced it would "explore alternative routes" for the pipeline.

Reuters reported Gerad Kipp, a Native American water engineer, saying: "I hope they follow through here with this. They haven’t been following the law all along. So we’ll see — but this is a victory today for our people and our water."

The victory might be short-lived when the protestors come up against another social media behemoth — US president-elect Donald Trump.

Trump appears to be lining up with local republicans who are in favour of the pipeline.

Brace yourself for the ultimate social media showdown, should Trump — remember he will be commander-in-chief of the US armed forces — order that the pipeline go ahead.

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