You Can’t Disavow Content (or maybe RTs ARE endorsements)

We’ve all done it.

Well most of us have, anyway. The infamous addendum to your Twitter bio. Come on, you know it – it goes something like this: “RT’s are not endorsements” or “RT’s do not equal endorsements” or something along those lines.

Heck, I have one myself, you can check it out on Twitter if you look up @SocMedDr. It serves as a little disclaimer. A little “I may not have done my homework, but I liked a tweet so I retweeted it, don’t hassle me later” disclaimer.

A blue knitted twitter bird with the caption "integrated social publishing: retweet me plz"
“Twittering your Business 06: retweet” by Hugger Industries is licensed under CC by-nc-sa 2.0

And today, I’m going to tell you why I think we’re all wrong to do this. Especially now in an age of online information operations and fake news.

“RT’s are not endorsements” is a phrase which absolves us from actually checking the source of our tweet. If we accidentally tweet propaganda, misinformation, or information originally tweeted by a racist or sexist account, we can freely disavow responsibility. We can respond with something like – “I just liked the tweet” or “I didn’t like the tweet and I was RT’ing it to get a discussion going” or a million other excuses that absolve us from signal boosting crap into the online public sphere.

And this deliberate ignorance is not enough any more.

How would we behave differently if every RT WAS an endorsement? Well they sort of are, insofar as popularity begets popularity, algorithmically speaking. And they also are, insofar as people take each of our tweets as representing our opinions, and may choose to believe something based on the fact that it was shared by someone they know. So in a sense, disclaimers in our bios do not absolve us of the responsibility to double check everything before we RT: We need to double check the source to make sure we support what they generally say. We need to double check the source, and sometimes the sources of the source for accuracy and solid research. And, we need to make sure we stand behind the content we link to, and are ready to defend it, or at least know it well enough to discuss it, if challenged.

Twitter favors quick and immediate posts without critical thinking. But it is this lack of time and care that has put us all into a position of being susceptible to the weaponization of information. So I challenge us all to drop our disclaimers and act as though RTs are endorsements. Because maybe, just maybe, this is one small step towards improving the quality of information we all share.

You Can’t Disavow Content (or maybe RTs ARE endorsements)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.