Canadian County mulls social media monitoring proposal

Chairman Hader says it ‘could be of value’; Commissioner Anderson strongly opposed

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District 1 Canadian County Commissioner Marc Hader

By Conrad Dudderar

Senior Staff Writer

EL RENO – Canadian County Commissioners may hire a company to monitor social media to help make data-driven decisions while learning more about what citizens are thinking.

The commissioners, at their Dec. 14th weekly meeting, tabled action “indefinitely” on a license agreement with the Tel Aviv, Israel-based company Zencity.

County Commission Chairman Marc Hader believes the pact “could be of value” for Canadian County officials in gauging the thoughts of county residents. The District 1 commissioner noted that often the “loudest folks are not representative of the public at large.”

The normal price is $48,000 annually, but Hader said it would be available at a reduced cost – $24,000 for one year or $12,000 for six months.

Noting that Zencity is “working with a lot of counties and cities,” Hader believes it’s something Canadian County should be “willing to try.”

District 2 Canadian County Commissioner David Anderson

District 2 County Commissioner Dave Anderson doesn’t want any part of it.

“I’m opposed to spending public money to monitor social media,” said Anderson, who prefers to engage people directly. “I will be voting ‘no’ on this item.”

Anderson wouldn’t even second a motion to table the Zencity license agreement.

“I wish someone would make a motion to take action because I would formally vote ‘no’ on the item,” he reiterated.

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WHAT THEY DO

Zencity uses artificial intelligence to analyze resident feedback and deliver actionable insights that help governments prioritize resources, track performance and connect with their communities.

The platform does this by gathering and analyzing millions of anonymized, aggregated data points of community feedback through local broadcast media, social media and government customer service channels.

“We are a team of committed urban geeks working with local governments around the world to take on one of the biggest challenges of our time – making cities and counties better and more livable,” according to the company’s website.

Undersheriff Kevin Ward said Canadian County could “try it for a year” to see how the Zencity platform works.

District 3 Canadian County Commissioner Jack Stewart

The arrangement may help county officials “get in front” of people’s concerns about a law enforcement incident or community issues like COVID-19, Ward added.

After a Zoom videoconference meeting with a Zencity representative, District 3 County Commissioner Jack Stewart suggested their analysts could help monitor social media so officials can dispel rumors and provide factual accounts.

Stewart referred to an example – Multiple law enforcement vehicles in front of a house on a routine call but social media users spread fears about it being a more serious incident like a shooting or hostage situation.