MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis is planning to pay six social media influencers to help disseminate city-approved messaging throughout the upcoming murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-officer charged in George Floyd’s death.
In a unanimous vote on Friday, the Minneapolis City Council approved a $1 million “communications and de-escalation plan” that involves partnering with community leaders, local media and social media influencers during Chauvin’s trial set to begin in March, as well the August trial of three other former officers charged in Floyd’s death, Fox News reported.
The social media influencers, whose contracts have yet to be finalized, will be paid $2,000 each to share “city-generated and approved messages” targeting Black, Native American, Somali, Hmong and Latinx communities. The effort is meant to dispel misinformation and avoid the unrest sparked by Floyd’s death last year, including violence and looting.
The list of social media influencers along with their respective backgrounds was not provided.
Local activists are criticizing the move, arguing the city is aiming to buy the narrative surrounding the trials, stamp out free speech and protests, and turn influencers into mouthpieces for the city, WCCO reported.
But the city of Minneapolis said in a statement that its “goal is to 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,” KSTP said. “It’s also an opportunity to create more two-way communication between the City and communities.”
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The city communications strategy, called Joint Information System (JIS), aims to “offer enhanced community services during the trial to keep people informed and safe, especially non-English and Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities and small businesses that do not rely on traditional media.”
Regarding social media influencers, the program approved by City Council involves the city entering “paid partnerships with community members who are considered trusted messengers and have large social media presence to share City generated and approved messages.” These individuals will also support “JIS situation monitoring” to “address/dispel incorrect information.”