Turning inner space into outer space

December 15, 2011

Does a retweet imply endorsement?

There has been some debate among journalists about whether retweeting implies endorsement of the original source. But before getting into that, let’s look at how Twitter itself defines a retweet:

Like a Tweet? Retweet! Sometimes you come across a Tweet that you just have to share.

Not much help there, although the definition is broad enough that you may not necessarily be agreeing with what you’ve retweeted. You could, for example, find it stunningly stupid and feel your followers will agree.

But that’s not usually why people in the news business retweet something. It’s usually because another source has posted something newsworthy, and by retweeting we can quickly share it with our own followers.

In cases such as this, retweeting implies at the very least that we think it might be true. If some unknown person tweets that there is a major fire downtown, then a retweet implies that the news organization believes that there is indeed a fire.

We should, of course, treat these types of tweets as tips. We should, at most, simply tweet that we are checking into reports of a fire. That would be more truthful and responsible.

On the other hand, if it were the fire department that tweeted about a major downtown fire, that would be different story. They have credibility, and a quick retweet would be in order.

Then race downtown to cover it.