Minneapolis Abandons Plan to Pay Influencers During Officers’ Trials


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Minneapolis Abandons Plan to Pay Influencers During Officers’ Trials

The city had faced criticism over plans to pay social media influencers $2,000 each to fight misinformation during the trials of Derek Chauvin and three other former police officers charged in George Floyd’s death.

Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

  • March 1, 2021

The City of Minneapolis has abandoned a contentious plan to pay social media influencers $2,000 each to help it combat misinformation during the upcoming trials of four police officers charged in the killing of George Floyd, officials said on Monday.

The plan, which the Minneapolis City Council approved on Friday, would have enlisted six social media influencers to share “city-generated and approved messages” with the African-American, Native American, East African, Hmong and Latino communities.

But it quickly met with criticism from police accountability groups and civil rights watchdogs, who accused the city of trying to spin its own narrative over Mr. Floyd’s death.

In a briefing on Monday about the city’s preparations for the trial of the former officer Derek Chauvin, officials acknowledged that the plan had been flawed, as was its description of cultural social media partners as influencers. It is common for brands to use a paid cadre of celebrities and other influencers to pitch products and services, but the city’s plan had been an unusual one.

“This was never about trying to persuade or change public opinion about any particular message, but more it was about getting important information out quickly and in an equitable way,” David Rubedor, the director of the city’s neighborhood and community relations department, said.

Mr. Rubedor said the city had wanted to engage residents who were not connected to the traditional routes for sharing information.

“For this strategy we used the term social media influencer, which, in retrospect, did not accurately reflect what we were asking of our partners and it caused confusion in the community,” he said.

Jury selection is expected to begin on March 8 in the trial of Mr. Chauvin, the white former officer who pinned Mr. Floyd’s neck to the ground for more than nine minutes last May as Mr. Floyd, a Black man, told officers that he couldn’t breathe.

The use of force by Mr. Chauvin, who has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, was recorded in several bystander videos. It set off widespread protests over police brutality and systemic racism, in addition to violence and looting in Minneapolis.

The three other officers, who were charged with aiding and abetting Mr. Chauvin, are expected to go to trial in August.

On Monday, Toussaint Morrison, a local community organizer, wrote on Twitter that the city’s plan to pay social media influencers to help it with messaging was “propaganda.”

Mr. Rubedor said the city had been looking at alternative ways of sharing information with residents about transit interruptions, street and building closures and security during the trials.

“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’m sorry,” he said.

Mark Ruff, the city coordinator for Minneapolis, said on Monday that the decision to scrap the plan showed the city’s openness to feedback from the public.

“When we make a mistake,” he said, “we acknowledge that, and we will do better.”

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