Minneapolis hires 'influencers' to combat misinformation during Chauvin trial

The trial is set to begin March 8.
Derek Chauvin

Minneapolis is getting nationwide attention for its approach to fighting misinformation during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in the death of George Floyd.

The city is reportedly hiring several social media influencers — people with large followings on platforms like Instagram and Twitter — to share updates about the court proceedings.

According to the Minnesota Reformer, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on Friday to hire six "trusted messengers” to share “city-generated and approved messages,” paying them $2,000 each. 

The news site says the city is finalizing contracts with influencers from the "African American, American Indian, East African, Hmong and Latino/a/x communities" — one of several initiatives aimed at dispelling misinformation during the Chauvin trial.

The story has been picked up by the likes of the New York Times, which notes that the city's program "is likely to encounter deep skepticism from residents who don’t trust the city to relay truthful information about the trials of its former officers."

Floyd's death was initially reported by the Minneapolis Police Department's communications department as being due to a "medical incident during police interaction," before a witness's video showed he was being held down by Chauvin and three other officers.

The NYT story does suggest that the city's plan to combat misinformation could be helpful in overcoming "language issues" in the community.

Nonetheless, there are local critics, including community organizer Toussaint Morrison, who tells WCCO that "the key word here is ‘city-approved,’“ expressing concern that the message is "going to be pro-city, it’s going to be anti-protest."

Per the station, the city issued a statement saying 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 civil unrest that broke out following Floyd's death in May was rife with misinformation that spread quickly online, and a single night of rioting in downtown Minneapolis in August was sparked when rumors spread that police had fatally shot a Black suspect, who had actually taken his own life.

The trials of Chauvin and the other officers charged in Floyd's death are the subject a large preparation effort, with barricades going up and National Guard troops being called in to safeguard the Hennepin County courthouse. 

The effort is called Operation Safety Net, which comprises a team of local and state law enforcement officials that will work together to prevent civil unrest while allowing non-violent protests and demonstrations during the proceedings. 

Chauvin's trial is set to begin March 8, while the trial for the other three officers involved in Floyd's death is scheduled for August. 

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