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[Updated] Minneapolis To Hire Social Media Influencers To Spread ‘City Approved’ Messages During Derek Chauvin Trial

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A person holds up a placard that reads, 'Black lives matter' during a protest in the city of Detroit, Michigan, on May 29, 2020, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white policeman knelt on his neck for several minutes. - Violent protests erupted across the United States late on May 29, over the death of a handcuffed black man in police custody, with murder charges laid against the arresting Minneapolis officer failing to quell boiling anger. (Photo by SETH HERALD / AFP) (Photo by SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images)
SETH HERALD/AFP via Getty Images

Update: Minneapolis has reconsidered this program. Please see here for further coverage.

The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, says it is hiring “social media influencers” from local minority communities to help facilitate the spread of news and combat “misinformation” during Derek Chauvin’s trial, reportedly in the hopes that they may head off unrest.

Chauvin’s trial is set to begin next Monday at 11 am, and Minneapolis is notably concerned that planned marches and demonstrations could go awry, particularly those about the death of George Floyd. Chauvin, who is accused of killing Floyd, sparked a national anti-racism and anti-police brutality movement that eventually gave way to riots that caused an estimated $500 million in damages in Minneapolis alone.

The Minneapolis City Council believes it can counter that through a social media campaign.

“The Minneapolis City Council has unanimously approved paying six social media influencers to spread city-approved messaging and updates throughout the upcoming murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged in George Floyd’s death. On Friday, the council approved $1,181,500 for communication with the community during the trial,” according to CBS.

Just $12,000 of that money will go to paying influencers during Chauvin’s trial. The rest will go to seed a long-term community engagement program that facilitates communication between city officials and community leaders and creates an information pipeline “can be activated during periods of heightened tension.”

“The city says social media partners will help dispel potential misinformation, and that the influencers will intentionally target Black, Native American, Somali, Hmong, and Latinx communities with their messaging. Each influencer will be paid $2,000,” the outlet noted, quoting local sources.

In a statement about the program, the Minneapolis City Council said that they hope the influencers “increase access to information to communities that do not typically follow mainstream news sources or City communications channels and/or who do not consume information in English.”

“It’s also an opportunity to create more two-way communication between the City and communities.” the council said, noting that the program will stay in place in some form after Chauvin’s trial has resolved.

Unfortunately for Minneapolis, the targeted communities are largely skeptical of the program, particularly given that the information will originate with city officials who are technically stakeholders in the outcome of Chauvin’s trial.

“If somebody endorses something you need to make sure that that’s what they actually believe no matter how much you can get paid for something,” one community organizer told local media. “This is their opportunity to gain trust with the community, with these influencers, with different communities and they have to be 100% transparent if this is going to work.”

“The keyword here is ‘city-approved,'” another told CBS. “What do you think the message is going to be? It’s going to probably be pro-city. It’s going to be anti-protest.”

Others suggested that the money could be put to better use.

“We have a homelessness crisis, we have a ton of small businesses that can’t even keep their doors open,” an activist told KARE Minneapolis.

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