Social media is a superb resource for information, commentary, images and videos, and an even better one for sharing all of that. At the swish of a finger or a click on a mouse, we can share any item of interest with our friends and followers on the social network of our choice.
Why do we share? Because we think things of interest or pertinence would also be of interest to others. But by sharing content on the internet via our social media channels are we taking responsibility for it? By sharing it, are we giving our consent to it or, in effect, publishing it in your own name?
In the vast majority of instances, this question is irrelevant. The majority of the internet content shared by social media users is probably innocuous or harmless, bar the routine bruising of copyright that has seemingly become acceptable by society at large.
Yet, when either retweeting (reposting a tweet i.e. a post that’s on Twitter) or sharing something akin to political commentary or something pertaining to be a self-evident fact, are we too saying, by default, “yes, I agree with this” or “I too am stating this fact to be true”?
Politicos (people who are excessively interested in politics) routinely retweet or share comments from others who they do not necessarily agree with, either to highlight that such a statement has been made to others who’d be interested or to just hold it up to ridicule. Some will retweet or share the statement (possibly along with an associated link) and then add their own subsequent commentary in a follow up, sequential post either approving or disapproving of what they have just shared. In either scenario, the person involved has shared the content and has, in effect, published and disseminated it further. Is the person reposting or sharing therefore responsible (legally or otherwise) for the sentiment in question? And how much does this really matter?
A sleepless night should not ensue if you share content
For the majority of content and comment a person shares on social media, a sleepless night should not ensue. If you have friends or followers, they should know you well enough to tell when you’d be in agreement or disagreement with a statement or any content that you have shared. Some social networks are very open to public search, however, and it would be unfortunate if a stranger was to come across an isolated comment you’ve publicly shared and then form their own (incorrect) judgements about you. But, again, this is hardly disastrous unless the content shared was illegal, or the comment incendiary or slanderous in the worst possible way.
You also have to consider that the person who originally posted online the content or comments you’ve shared will invariably be informed that you have done so; and what will they make of that? In the majority of cases, vanity will lead them to conclude that you approve of their post, and could lead them to engage with you further. This is not disastrous, but it could lead to some crossing of wires or some online awkwardness.
It is contentious comment or content that the social networker has to be very mindful of when sharing online. Contentious material by its very nature is dangerous to post or repost, as it could easily be challenged, needlessly create an incorrect impression of the person who’s reposting or, in some instances, be illegal or have legal ramifications. Would you want to take responsibility for such material, let alone run the risk of being perceived as condoning or distributing it? The sensible person wouldn’t, and freedom of speech and expression does have its limitations (for better and for worse).
But what do people who are reading this article think on this issue? Please share your own thoughts and interpretations below.
Nick Lewis Communications can provide training in social media marketing as well as offer professional management of social media feeds. To find out, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07970 839137.