Is A Retweet Considered An Endorsment?


[twitter]Short answer? No.

Longer answer? Sometimes it can be hard to tell.

The default option to retweet using Twitter via the web interface does not offer an opportunity to add context or comments to the tweet. You get to retweet the comment as is, that is your only option. It’s what is referred to as a naked retweet.

The naked retweet was debated last year when the Associated Press issued standards for retweeting by journalists.

the AP rules say reporters should write a lead-in to the material. Instead of simply retweeting a controversial quote from Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, for example, the reporter should preface the retweet with “Gingrich shares view on taxes: RT @newtgingrich…”

“A naked retweet..can certainly suggest that the AP staffer was endorsing that opinion,” Kent says. “Not everyone would think that, but some people would.”
[The Naked Retweet Dilemma – American Journalism Review]

In a recent design change, Twitter added the original author’s name and avatar to the timeline when something has been retweeted. It made clear the distinction that the tweet was the original work of someone else.

I agree with the notion that context for retweets is a good thing to add, but if Twitter does not include that functionality how can we expect all to add it? 3rd party apps like Tweetbot do allow for quoting tweets, and the Twitter desktop app, TweetDeck, allows for this functionality but it is not available on the web interface. If you want to add context, you have to copy the tweet, edit it for length, and then add commentary to the front.

Some organizations have asked that reporters include the disclaimer “links and retweets not considered endorsements,” but just as with the “thoughts and opinions are mine and not employers” disclaimer, it’s something that should be implied and not necessary to announce.

Justin Fenton, a crime reporter at the Baltimore Sun and an avid Twitter user, includes the line in his own profile, but says that it’s essentially a useless tactic to cover himself.

“The people who are going to get upset about it aren’t going to look at that disclaimer,” Fenton says. “I still hear from people who say, ‘I can’t believe you said that the other day and are expressing your opinion.’ Those are people who aren’t familiar with Twitter.”
[The Naked Retweet Dilemma – American Journalism Review]

A retweet cannot be considered an endorsement because Twitter does not provide default tools to add context. A retweet is merely a “Hey! Did you hear?…” or “So this just happened..” It is a reporting tool as much as it is a vehicle for sharing like-minded ideas.

More often than not, a retweet will be something the poster agrees with, however it cannot be assumed as such by default.

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3 Comments

  1. November 7, 2012

    I think you are right… it isn’t an endorsement. On the other hand, I saw the tweets last night and I double checked to see what in the world was going on because I was shocked at the RT coming from you…

  2. November 7, 2012

    And I did add immediate context do those three retweets in a subsequent tweet.

    I have since deleted all of them as I am not and was not comfortable with the language they contained, but I did it originally to make the point I have detailed here: a retweet is NOT an endorsement.

  3. November 7, 2012

    If I want to call out an icky tweet, I wait until I’m on a platform where I CAN add a lead-in. It’s important enough to me that people know I’m not endorsing those tweets; not everyone is going to know these RT principles—I didn’t!

    Twitter moves too fast for me to hope that follow-up tweets will be seen/read.

    Until this is a Thing on Twitter, I’m erring on the side of caution.

    There are all kinds of norms that are considered acceptable, but that doesn’t make them favourable.

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