MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis City Council is dropping a plan to hire social media "influencers" to boost city-approved messages during the upcoming murder trial of a police officer accused of killing George Floyd.
The plan, which carried an approved $1.1 million budget for payments to social media "influencers" in exchange for pushing city-approved messaging, was widely criticized on social media, according to NBC News.
The announcement scrapping the plan was made during Monday's city council meeting.
“For this strategy, we use the term social media influencer which in retrospect did not accurately reflect what we are asking of our partners, and it caused confusion in the community,” said David Rubedor, director of the Neighborhood and Community Relationship Department for the city, according to the Washington Post.
Over the weekend, reports emerged that the city had approved more than $1.1 million for a communications plan during the upcoming trial of former officer Derek Chauvin to “help dispel potential misinformation” and “to share City generated and approved messages."
Part of the plan included paying social media influencers with large local followings to help push the city’s message and “increase access to information to communities that do not typically follow mainstream news sources,” according to a statementfrom the city council.
The plan called for paying social media influencers about $2,000 for their work, according to WCCO, and their work would have intentionally targeted Black, Native American, Somali, Hmong, and Latin communities.
Chauvin is facing murder and manslaughter charges for the death of George Floyd. Floyd’s death last May was widely shared on social media and showed the Black man handcuffed and held down by Chauvin while he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin, a white man, had his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Following Floyd’s death, protests rocked Minneapolis and cities across the country. The city is preparing for more demonstrations during Chauvin’s trial, which is set to begin March 8.
When announcing its plan, Minneapolis said the tactic was not entirely new for them.
"The City first collaborated with cultural social media partners prior to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in 2018. We realized that posting information in English and other languages, such as Spanish, Hmong and Somali on our City social channels would not be enough,” Minneapolis City Council said in a statement to KSTP. Adding they used the partnerships to share information about street closures, transit changes and public information to amplify those details.
“The social media partners also were able to contact the City if they heard a rumor or a concern so that we could quickly verify the information and share out a corresponding message.”
Also part of the city’s preparations for Chauvin’s trial include allowing the police department to enter into mutual aid agreement with at least 14 law enforcement agencies for support.