A barbed wire barrier went up around the Minneapolis City Hall and Hennepin County Government Center on Feb. 24, 2021, in preparation for the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.
After a social media tsunami of negativity, Minneapolis officials scrapped a plan to use social media influencers to share information during the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd on May 25. The trial begins with jury selection next Monday, and city officials had planned to pay “trusted messengers” with a large social media presence to share “city-generated and approved messages” and dispel misinformation.
Last week, a spokeswoman said the city was finalizing contracts with six social media influencers to share messages with the Black, Native American, East African, Hmong and Latino communities. The city had budgeted $12,000 for the influencers, with each set to be paid $2,000 to share information, according to city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie.
But after the Reformer wrote about the plan, the backlash was swift and immediate on social media, with people accusing the city of everything from paying for propaganda to bracing people for Chauvin’s acquittal to reaching the “Instagram model propaganda wing phase of the dystopia.”
“The hot new club is the free speech zone – forget poppers, friends, MPD is serving looks and tear gas all night”
— hodel in the streets, chava in the sheets (@mrotzie) February 26, 2021
As the plan went viral and pushback intensified, some City Council members weighed in on Twitter, but were unsure whether they’d voted to approve this part of a larger package of proposals on Friday.
Crap. Had to delete again bc I got conflicting information from City staff. Apparently it was included. This is is the consequence of work being rushed through w/o the Council being involved.
— Phillipe Cunningham (@CunninghamMPLS) February 27, 2021
You’re right – I had missed this and had heard differently from staff this afternoon. Thanks for asking about this. We will hear much more about the plans on Monday.
— Lisa Bender (@lisabendermpls) February 27, 2021
David Rubedor, director of Neighborhood and Community Relations, responded Monday during a City Council briefing, saying the program was a response to many residents who aren’t connected to traditional roots for information.
The social media influencers would have provided information quickly about interruptions to transit routes, building and street closures and security downtown so people can get to work, take care of their families and access resources during the high-profile trial to be held downtown, he said.
It was not about trying to persuade or change public opinion, Rubedor said.
“While I believe in and support the intention of this recommendation, we have seen that the impact has caused harm in our communities, and for that I am sorry,” he told the council. “At this point we will not move forward with this strategy.”
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