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POLL: If I RT Something, Do You Assume I Endorse It?

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I may be in the minority here, but when I see an RT, I don’t assume that the person RT’ing necessarily endorses what’s being RT’d. Lately, I’ve been getting messages on Twitter that suggest other people do assume that of me, however.

Quick example of an RT I sent out the other day:

RT @ckanal#JOBS RT @Poynter HuffPost is advertising for all sorts of editorial positions, including comedy editor.

Now, some disclaimers:

  • I’m not a regular reader of The Huffington Post, nor do I wholly endorse it as a news organization.
  • I can’t vouch for The Huffington Post as a nice place to work.
  • I do endorse people being employed, preferably at a job they like.

I don’t blame people for assuming things, even though I do think it’s a bit presumptive, but I’m curious to know what your opinion is:

Please leave a comment explaining your vote once you’ve voted.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I think the person “endorses” the tweet to the extent that she or he thinks it’s interesting/valuable/provocative/etc. I don’t assume that the person doing the RT “agrees” with the tweet; that’s what favorites are for. :-)

    I wish everyone actually looked at a link before RTing it — but far too many (most?) don’t. So I don’t assume that they’ve read it. I try not to RT a link blindly, but I have done it.

  • Storify screwed up favorites for me — favoriting Tweets is the only reliable way to organize them for use in Storify later on.

    As for the rest of what you said, my thoughts are basically the same. Unless an RT is preceded by “Interesting:” or something like that, I just figure the person is Retweeting on the assumption that his/her followers might find some value in the Tweet.

  • Mark Balcerak

    No, but the nature of retweeting so far might make it seem that way. Generally, when I see a retweet, it’s by someone who endorses/likes/finds interesting the tweet in question. For example, a guy who decided to turn his computer case into Wall-E is something that gets retweeted by lots of people saying how cute/awesome/whatever it is. Negative reactions to tweets, I find, get responses along the lines of “Wow, @(whomever) is a douchebag” and omit the message entirely. Which seems more or less in line with how we normally act; people tend to mimic and parrot the things with which they like or agree. People quote the founding fathers all the time when talking of liberty and freedom, but you never hear anyone quote the English aristocracy or some oppressive dictator with the disclaimer “isn’t this guy fucked up?” when trying to make a similar point. And when you’re limited to 140 characters, it’s hard to include the disclaimer “Hey, I don’t necessarily agree, but what do you think?” plus a RT.

    Long story short, when you lend your voice to something, it’s generally looked at as a sign that thing is worth mentioning. Combined with the fact most people spread word on Twitter of things they like, you will get a lot of people thinking a retweet is an endorsement. It’s not nearly in the same league as waving a Confederate flag and saying you’re only doing it in support of states’ rights, but it’s the only example I can think of right now. The context might change over time, as all things do; meanwhile, the nature of the medium will be an important factor of how people judge what you lend your voice to.

  • This isn’t an RT, but it’s an example of repeating something without endorsing it: I quoted something Sarah Palin said a while back on my Tumblr page. I didn’t comment on the quote because, frankly, I thought the quote spoke for itself.

    Would someone who doesn’t know me think I was endorsing Sarah Palin, or, at least, her views on journalism? I don’t know. My thought was, it would depend on what the person reading the quote thought of Sarah Palin, more than what they thought of me. You can read it as, “Paul agrees with Sarah Palin, which is why he quoted her in this instance;” “Paul agrees with what Sarah Palin is saying, which is why he quoted her;” or, “This quote is blatantly ridiculous and Paul is mocking Sarah Palin by posting it.”

    Really, though, it doesn’t matter. I posted it for other people to read it and decide what they thought of it. I don’t think what I think of Sarah Palin is relevant (in this case).

  • Mark Balcerak

    I realize there are plenty of instances where you can repeat something without endorsing it, a phenomenon for which Tumblr is well suited. For me, however, I think there’s a distinction between a Tumblr* post and a RT. With Twitter, words are coming straight from the horse’s mouth (or someone who speaks on their behalf) and are broadcast specifically to and for a wide audience. Tumblr, though, you’re typically linking to a story, or an audio/video clip of that person in the act of doing something (speech, interview, etc). There’s an extra layer of separation between you and the content in question that isn’t present in a tweet, making it much easier to convey “I think this is relevant, but I don’t endorse it.”

    Again, my opinion, but I think it boils down to the medium being the message. There are so many different ways to spread information online and enough time has passed since their inception that each method has developed its own utility and context depending on the situation (e.g. why you post something on Twitter rather than Facebook, or vice versa). I’ve seen enough RTs that begin with “This is awesome!”, “I agree,” or “What he/she said” that I generally think of them as affirmations of what is said. Tumblr is a type of linking, and we’ve generally come to agree that when you link to something it is because you think that link is noteworthy in some way, but you don’t necessarily agree with or condone it (or else no one would know what Two Girls, One Cup is). Maybe I’m just following the wrong crowd, but unless a large number of people start RTing stuff with which they disagree, and that is made clear, the message of the Twitter medium for me will remain “This is how I feel, what I think, and what I agree with.”

    (* Since you used Tumblr as an example I will to, but the same logic applies with other forms of online expression as well.)

  • Good point about Tumblr, but I still think the person, not the medium, is what matters in a lot of cases. Case in point — and sorry to bring Sarah Palin into this again — Palin’s (pro-gay?) Retweet from last week. If Rachel Maddow had RT’d that, no one would think anything of it. Palin does it and we’re all, “Is she pro-gay?” “Did she not understand the Tweet?” etc.

    Additionally, imagine a Tweet from a prominent conservative that gets Retweeted by another prominent conservative and, say, Stephen Colbert. Clearly the Retweeters’ intent and meaning are miles apart.

    Lastly, for the record, I have no idea what “Two Girls, One Cup” is, and I’m afraid to Google it.

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