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, CBS Minnesota reports.
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 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,” the Minneapolis City Council said in a statement. “It’s also an opportunity to create more two-way communication between the City and communities.”
The city council hasn’t finalized how they will choose the influencers, but said selections will be based on recommendations from the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations staff.
Some activists and legal experts are concerned about the decision.
Toussaint Morrison, an activist with a following of over 11,000 users on Instagram, uses his platform to educate the community. He’s worried about bias behind information that will come from a city-funded influencer.
“The key word here is ‘city-approved'”, said Morrison. “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.”
Sarah Davis, executive director of the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, said this decision by the council sends a clear message.
“It really reflects that they know there’s a lack of trust between community and city institutions and that’s real. Let’s be honest about that, that’s real,” said Davis.
Her firm plans to offer legal expertise and Q & A’s during the trial.
“What we’re really trying to do is help folks understand what they’re going to be seeing, answer questions about that,” said Davis.
The city council plans to discuss more details on the new positions in a public online briefing on Monday at 10 a.m.
Floyd’s death last year sparked outrage and a wave of unrest in Minneapolis and nationwide, with violence and looting seen in some cities. Many demonstrated peacefully.