Remember the May 2020 George Floyd death story that sent the online world into a frenzy? The case of Floyd, who died in the police’s hands, was and is still a global issue that reiterated extreme forces used by the police. The case, which has not been decided yet, was a political nightmare for the superpower, having occurred when the country held national polls.
Those who have followed the proceedings should be aware that Minneapolis arrested four police officers linked to the alleged crime.
Here is the interesting part: the city is hiring social media influencers, who should inform the public about the case through what they call ‘city-generated and approved messages.’
The six influencers will be paid $2000 each (around KES 220K) to drive conversations around the case – all of which, as said, will be approved by Minneapolis. The messages should, according to Minneapolis, sit well with the city’s residents, who span from Blacks to Latinos.
We intend to offer enhanced community services during the trial to keep people informed and safe, especially non-English and Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities and small businesses that do not rely on traditional media.
How you look at this development is the same way the majority of people perceive it. It is not censorship, per se, but it would seem that Minneapolis does not want the ‘wrong’ messages to be shared during the trial. Which, basically, is censorship – and is therefore willing to use people who have a comprehensive social media reach to influence people’s opinions.
This is similar to the Nigeria #ENDSARS case where the country’s broadcast commission issued a subtle gag about the coverage of the demos.
The same thing happens in the Kenya space, where organizations and politicians hire online social media guns to suppress anger against many issues.
Whether there are social media influencers who will take the pay and do the job is a development that would be interesting to see. Also, and often, such carefully crafted messages are easily spotted by social media users.
Our overall assessment is that it wouldn’t come to that where states use the power of social media platforms to spread messages that they deem are ‘right’ for the people.