Accuracy in Media

The Associated Press clamped down on employees using Twitter with some new guidance on how they can use the social media site when retweeting.

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. For instance:

RT @jonescampaign smith’s policies would destroy our schools

RT @dailyeuropean at last, a euro plan that works

These kinds of unadorned retweets must be avoided.

However, we can judiciously retweet opinionated material if we make clear we’re simply reporting it, much as we would quote it in a story. Colons and quote marks help make the distinction:

RT Jones campaign now denouncing smith on education: @jonescampaign smith’s policies would destroy our schools

RT big European paper praises euro plan: @dailyeuropean “at last, a euro plan that works”

These cautions apply even if you say on your Twitter profile that retweets do not constitute endorsements.

Retweeting is a very common practice on Twitter, in which the user just simply forwards, sometimes with their own personal message, the tweet of another user to their followers. This practice has the effect of potentially amplifying the original tweet several times over, depending on the reach of the person sending the tweet and how many followers retweet the message.

The Associated Press is concerned that the retweets would subject its employees to charges of bias even if the reporters specifically state that they are not endorsing the viewpoint of the original tweet. That isn’t an unfounded fear, but the new policy is clumsy at best.

What the AP is suggesting is to alter the standard format of retweeting messages so much so that it wouldn’t be clear who really said what.

Journalists reacted swiftly to the memo tweeting their comments, which ranged from dumb to suggesting that the AP just hire robots from now on.

The AP may be trying to prevent any social media disasters, but this policy makes it clear that they don’t trust their employees to use good judgment when it comes to Twitter.

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