If you have a Twitter account you’ve probably seen the phrase, “RTs are not endorsements”, “Retweets are not endorsements”, or some other variation attached to someone’s Twitter bio. This is basically just a disclaimer that means they may or may not agree with what the tweet says, either way they are sharing it, and don’t be mean to them.
In the early days of Twitter, this sort of caveat might have been needed, but is it still necessary? Is the entire Twitter community aware that you don’t have to endorse something to retweet it, or will people assume that you endorse RTs if you don’t say otherwise?
Don’t touch that dial!
Continuing the theme of outdated sayings — “Don’t touch that dial!” is from a time when radios were the main source of news and entertainment for a home. It was a hook to keep listeners from scanning alternative airways. That was also a time when radios still had dials.
It’s a phrase that no longer really means anything. That’s how a lot of people feel about the retweet disclaimer. Yes, there was a reason for people to say, “RTs are not endorsements” at one point in time, but that time’s gone.
However, there are many who feel that it’s not obvious that a retweet is not an endorsement. Some maintain that you should be held accountable for retweets in the same way that you’re held accountable for tweets.
Why do people say retweets are not endorsements?
Patrick LaForge, an editor at the New York Times, is credited with coining the retweet disclaimer, and he is one of the many who regret his ever doing so. “I was an early Twitter adopter, and this phrase was in my bio starting in 2007 or 2008. I don’t remember when I dropped it. It makes me cringe now,” he says.
Supervising editor at NPR, Mark Memmott, says, “despite what many say, retweets should be viewed as endorsements.” The NPR ethics handbook says, ““Tweet and retweet as if what you’re saying or passing along is information that you would put on the air or in a ‘traditional’ NPR.org news story. If it needs context, attribution, clarification or ‘knocking down,’ provide it.”
The Associated Press takes a similar stance. Their social media guidelines state, “Retweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like you’re expressing a personal opinion on the issues of the day. A retweet with no comment of your own can easily be seen as a sign of approval of what you’re relaying.”
RTs as endorsements — yay or nay?
Some call the RT disclaimer a useless crutch, making the case that retweeting without providing additional information does serve as an endorsement; having the disclaimer does nothing more than give you something to fall back on if people get upset.
Others insist that simply sharing, or retweeting, what others say should not suggest approval or endorsement of the information. People should be able to share news or the opinions of others without their personal beliefs getting lumped in with the original Tweet.
Here’s something to consider, though.
- You have “RTs ≠ endorsements” fixed firmly on your profile.
- You retweet, “I hate strawberry ice cream.” with no additional context, explanation, or information.
- What are people going to think about your feelings towards strawberry ice cream?
Are they going to recognize that you have the retweet disclaimer, and that they shouldn’t jump to any hasty conclusions about your preferences for ice cream flavors?
Will they know that you are an advocate for ice cream flavor choice, and that you’re actually condemning this anti-strawberry hate speech?
They’re probably going to think that you aren’t a fan of strawberry ice cream.
The best option is to go beyond just retweeting something. If you give context, thoughts, or opinions regarding what you are retweeting, it will be obvious where you stand on what you’re sharing. You will no longer have to rely on the irksome and outdated, “RTs are not endorsements”.
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