Are You Re-Tweeting Misinformation?

Associated Press has issued new social media guidelines for reporters who are sourcing social networks and retweeting content. What got my attention is that AP cautions its reporters to fact-check the authenticity of a person/organization posting on social networks and the information posted and tweeted.

AP points out in its guidelines:

If you come across photos, videos or other multimedia content that you would like to use in your news report, you must verify its authenticity. You must also determine who controls the copyright of the material and get permission from that person/organization to use it. Phony accounts are rampant in the social media world and can appear online within minutes of a new name appearing in the news. Examine the details to determine whether the page could have just as easily been created by somebody else.

AP gives this example of not giving an implied endorsement of a tweet.

Bad: “RT@jonescampaign smith’s policies would destroy our schools”

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

There has been a lot of commentary about the new guidelines. New York Times media reporter David Carr @carr2n added his two cents in his own tweet: AP to staff: Don’t retweet anything with an opinion. Good luck with that. I believe what he meant is that so much of what flows through social media is opinion that it will be tough to enforce that guideline.

Am I Spreading Misinformation — and Are You?

That got me thinking that I post retweets without checking the authenticity of the information. I feel I’m on pretty safe ground if I’m retweeting articles from reputable publications like the Times, or business colleagues on Twitter that I know and trust. I also avoid content that defames others or seem suspect. But surely some of my RTs  could be questionable. So am I spreading misinformation?

And do you “like” a blog post, RT a tweet or give a +1 to an article without checking the source or accuracy of the information?

There is no doubt a great deal of misinformation circling the globe on the back of RTs and “likes.” What are your thoughts on this problem? Do you have self-imposed rules about the information you’ll help to go viral?

Here is a copy of the AP guidelines. You’ll need to save it to your computer as a PDF to open it.

Leave a Reply


  1. Hamish — I guess you’re helping me to make my point. While you may feel you’re not implying that your retweet is authentic others may take it that the content is factual. That’s the dilemma.