Minneapolis drops plan to hire social media influencers for Chauvin trial

The City of Minneapolis announced Monday it is dropping its plan to pay social media influencers to push out the city's messaging during trial of Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd. Monday’s announcement came in a public safety preparations meeting one week ahead of the trial, which is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Monday. March 8.

"We will not pursue the cultural social media partners," said City of Minneapolis Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations David Rubedor.

"When we make a mistake, we will acknowledge that and we will do better," City Coordinator Mark Ruff added.

Minnesota Reformer first reported the city’s plan to hire six "trusted messengers" with large social media followings to share "city-generated and approved messages." The city planned to pay the influencers, who were never identified, $2,000 each. 

The city budgeted $12,000 from a total community engagement strategy budget of $69,500 for the influencer campaigns.

The Minneapolis City Council voted 13-0 on Friday to authorize the contracts.

Here is how the project was initially planned, according to city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie:

"The City is collaborating with social media partners to share public information with cultural communities and to help dispel potential misinformation during the upcoming trials of the former officers involved in the killing of George Floyd. 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. It’s also an opportunity to create more two-way communication between the City and communities. The recommendations for which social media messengers to partner with come from the City’s Neighborhood and Community Relations staff."

The social media influencer plan garnered national attention from the New York Times, which noted, "the 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."

The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin begins Monday, March 8 with jury selection. A livestream of the proceedings will be available, uninterrupted from start to finish, at fox9.com/live.

Chauvin is currently charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Thao, Kueng and Lane are all charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. All four officers were fired the day after Floyd’s death. 

Thao, Kueng and Lane will be tried together in August.