If you have a Twitter account you’ve probably seen the phrase, “Retweets are not endorsements”, or some 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!
That’s a pretty outdated saying… “Don’t touch that dial” is from a time when radios were the main source of news and entertainment for a home. 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 phrase regarding retweets not being endorsements. Yes, there was a reason for people to say it at one point in time, but that time is past.
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.
Still, there are many who feel that it’s not obvious that a retweet is not an endorsement. 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.” Some have called using the RT disclaimer a useless crutch, making the case that simply retweeting does serve as an endorsement, and having the disclaimer does nothing more than give you something to fall back on if people get upset.
The best option is to go beyond simply 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”.