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Minneapolis looking to use social media influencers to combat misinformation during Chauvin trial

Each of the six influencers, who haven't been chosen yet, will be paid $2,000 for the entire trial.

MINNEAPOLIS — Influencers on social media are a big deal these days when it comes to companies partnering with people to promote their products.

Leaders with the city of Minneapolis are looking to do the same, partnering with six local social media influencers to use their platforms to combat misinformation during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

"I think this is a great idea, I think it'll all depend on the execution and how its rolled out, said Nadine Babu, CEO/Social Media Strategist with Babu Social Networks.

The six influencers haven't been chosen yet. The city said each of them will be paid $2,000 for the entirety of the trial -- a total of $12,000 between the six. 

Separately, the Minneapolis City Council Friday approved a $1.1 million in funding for the Office of Violence Prevention. Using the funding, the OVP plans to fund a network of community-based groups that, according to the city website, "can be activated during periods of heightened tension" both during the trials and for the rest of 2021 

As for the influencer partnership, city leaders say the whole purpose is to share timely and relevant information geared towards communities of color and those who don't rely on traditional media for information. 

Which some social media strategists say can be problematic if presented the wrong way.

"If somebody endorses something you need to make sure that that's what they actually believe no matter how much you can get paid for something," Babu said. She went on to add, "this is their opportunity to gain trust with the community, with these influencers, with different communities and they have to be 100% transparent if this is going to work."

Transparency that leaders from organizations like Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence aren't willing to accept, and suggest those funds but allocated elsewhere.

"We have a homelessness crisis, we have a ton of small businesses that can't even keep their doors open," said Ashley Quinones, CEO and Founder of the Justice Squad.  

"We don't really trust them to be truthful about the information that's being put out there," said Toshira Garraway, Founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence.

A targeted approach involving money and the power of social media, in an effort to combat misinformation and violence experts say could be beneficial. 

"This could be groundbreaking for trials to come but it has to be done correctly and you really have one shot to gain people's trust," Babu said. 

City leaders plan to talk more about the new roles when they meet on Monday and sent the following statement regarding the plan: 

"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 agreements with the social media partners have not been finalized. The City is adhering to procurement requirements for the selection and contracting processes.

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. Through partnerships with community members we were able to post timely information on street closures, transit changes and other important public information on the City account in multiple languages and the partners amplified the translated messages to their own networks. 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."

Jury selection in Derek Chauvin's trial begins March 8th. 

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