Are Retweets Endorsements?

Should you put a disclaimer on your re-tweets (or on your Twitter profile) that your retweeting does not necessarily mean your endorsement of the content of the message so distributed?

Here is an article suggesting that disclaimers are not a bad idea. Associated Press has recently warned its journalists about this, and suggested that a mere disclaimer may not be enough. The article goes into blogger endorsements under the recent FTC policy on that topic too.

Can readers of your retweet figure out when your ‘no comment’ is an ironic dismissal of the content, rather than a neutral retransmission? Would ‘no comment’ in that case amount to fair comment?

Will a disclaimer in a profile (a) be relevant at all? How many people read the profiles of those whose tweets they find, or even those whose tweets they follow?, and (b) overcome an implicitly prejudicial context to the retweet?

What do you do, and advise your clients to do?

P.S. h/t to MIRLN for the article.


  1. Antonin I. Pribetic

    Your fellow contributor, Dan Pinnington previously blogged about this issue.

  2. Thanks, Antonin – I see Dan’s post was inspired by your own suggestions.

    Is there a predictable legal effect to one’s plain vanilla endorsement by retweeting? When the original tweet provides only a link to some other content, would the Crookes v Newton principles come into play, to allow the retweeter to avoid liability for anything defamatory in the other content? Would Crookes apply to the retweet even if the tweet itself were defamatory?

  3. My take – No, it`s simply keeping the conversation going.

  4. Antonin I. Pribetic


    I would start with Crookes v. Newton at para. 42:

    “Making reference to the existence and/or location of content by hyperlink or otherwise, without more, is not publication of that content. Only when a hyperlinker presents content from the hyperlinked material in a way that actually repeats the defamatory content, should that content be considered to be “published” by the hyperlinker…”

    What I take away from the majority opinion in Crookes v. Newton applied, mutatis mutandis, to Twitter, is as follows:

    1. A retweet of a tweet that is itself defamatory is republication and may attract liablity and
    2. A retweet of a tweet that includes a hyperlink to defamatory content is not republication, unless there is some express endorsement or approval (RT+, “I agree”, etc.)

    Given that Twitter is based in San Francisco, California, personal and subject-matter jurisdiction remain thorny issues.

    I suppose we will find out what constitutes a “real and substantial connection” in internet defamation actions this Wednesday after the Supreme Court of Canada releases its decisions in Black v. Breeden and Les éditions Écosociété Inc., et al. v. Banro Corporation.


  5. I agree with Omar, that, in general the function is simply to share information, perhaps with an unspoken “look at this; what do you think?” footnote. I expect this is how most retweets without an explicit note of endorsement (e.g. RT+ or +1) are received as well.

    This is apart from the question of defamation, on which I think John and Antonin make excellent points. Those points tend toward medium-neutrality, it seems, of defamatory publication, with a good balance of information-sharing and responsibility, per Crookes v. Newton.

    Each of us reads a different timeline and shares with a different community, and many (but of course not all) of those communities overlap. In this context, a retweet really means whatever its purpose is within those communities – which begs the question, I know. I follow a number of journalists and information providers, and I don’t think the issue is a weighty one in those communities (apart from defamation, for journalists, in particular): Those users share information by trade and by disposition, largely, and look forward to comment and discussion, as Omar says.

    Obviously, the question whether retweets are endorsements is significant to those in the business of providing opinion and advice to others. If I were one of those users I’d certainly exercise care in retweeting and note in my bio that retweets don’t imply endorsement. If I were resharing any troublesome information I’d make sure to express non-endorsement in the RT. Better yet, I’d not RT troublesome information at all but, rather, would stay quiet or write fresh content.

    I believe this came up in the earlier discussion of retweets and endorsement, but I think it’s useful to note a distinction between the original RT-style retweets, which would attach the RTer’s handle and form a new message, and the more recently-developed function of retweet-button retweets, which redistributes the original tweet without affecting its content. Do others think there’s a difference in effect between RTs and retweet-button reshares?


  6. I tend to believe that a retweet without editorial comment is an endorsement of the message. It means you want the message to live on and be spread. I think human nature would normally be for us to bury information we disagree with or repeat with editorial/contrary content.

    The exception to this may be the media, whose job it is to disseminate information.