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Commissioners discuss social media monitoring, disagree about its use

For The Yukon Review

Canadian County Commissioners have social media on their minds. At a meeting on Monday, they discussed potentially working with a company called Zencity. Recently, this group reached out and offered their services to both Canadian County and the sheriff’s office.
According to their website, Zencity has an AI-driven platform that helps local governments learn what their city and county populations really want. The company is located out of Israel.
The idea is to track residents’ feedback. Using a computer program, Zencity can monitor and study social media and local news trends in a given area, gaining insight into how citizens feel about government policy and action.
The commissioners said the process involves studying patterns, not individual social media habits. County government could learn how people feel about road work, changes made to signs and buildings, events and campaigns.
District 3 Commis-sioner Jack Stewart said a representative from Zencity gave him an example of how this type of approach may also do well to curb misinformation. The representative cited the example of a neighborhood noticing an event with police on the street and spreading different rumors about what happened. Zencity could help law enforcement set the record straight regarding local misinformation.
Commissioners voted to table the item indefinitely.
It is unknown at this time whether they will work with the company or not, but Stewart and District 1 Commis-sioner Marc Hader have expressed interest.
District 2 Commis-sioner David Anderson gave an emphatic no, saying he didn’t think taxpayer money should be spent on monitoring citizens’ social media.
Hader said that if the county chooses to work with the company, the rate would be reduced 50% for the first six months. The usual price is $48,000 per year, so half a year at half price would total $12,000.
Another item on the agenda brought the focus back to the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Canadian County has a reimbursement agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. The state had money left over from the CARES act, and that money is set to be distributed to counties and cities.
Canadian County Emergency Management Director Andrew Skidmore said his office recently spent approximately $9,000 on masks, anti-bacterial wipes, gloves and hand sanitizer. These products will be distributed to schools, emergency services, and the sheriff’s office. What is left over will be given to other county offices. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Services will reimburse the full dollar amount back to the county.

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