Should we share content we don’t agree with?

Posted on June 29, 2020

 

On social media, it’s no secret that people tend to like, comment and share articles they haven’t read beyond the title, but a controversy last week opens up debate about the dangers of doing this, as well as whether we should share material we don’t 100% agree with.

Last week, Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey was asked to leave her position after sharing an interview with actress Maxine Peake published by The Independent. The tweet remains on Long-Bailey’s Twitter page, with Long-Bailey introducing it by describing Peake as an “absolute diamond”.

The controversy arose because at one point in the interview, Peake makes an unfounded claim that American police officers learned the technique of kneeling on suspects’ necks from the Israeli secret services. Several Twitter users then accused Long-Bailey of sharing an antisemitic conspiracy theory – an accusation that has dogged the Labour Party in recent years.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has said several times that his number one priority is to tackle antisemitism within the party, so it’s fair to say that Long-Bailey should have been more careful, although in a separate debate, her allies on the left of the party have argued that criticism of Israel and antisemitism are not the same thing.

Moreover though, it raises a question about whether sharing an article should be seen as 100% endorsement of all the views expressed within it. After all, the accusation Peake made was not the main point of the article, and could be seen as little more than a throwaway remark that Peake herself has now admitted was “inaccurate”.

In a follow-up tweet, Long-Bailey said that her tweet “wasn’t intended to be an endorsement of all aspects of the article”. This is a reminder that before sharing articles, we should be sure to read them in full. It may be that the title of the piece resonates with us, but as this incident shows, it only takes one small discrepancy within the article to bring the share into disrepute. If Long-Bailey had quantified her share by clarifying that she disagreed with the Israeli police accusation but otherwise thought the interview raised some excellent points, she may well have covered her back.

The problem is that although Twitter has increased its traditional 140-character tweet limit, convention is still to keep tweets brief and punchy, meaning it’s not always the best medium for objective analysis of content. For that reason, I would say politicians should perhaps do more blogging and less tweeting. Blogs allow more scope to put ideas across, to discuss an article and clarify which parts of it make good points and which don’t, and then perhaps share the blog via Twitter to draw in traffic.

Aside from that, when we do share content on Twitter, we should follow the three steps below:

1. Read it in full
2. Consider whether we agree with 100% of the article. Are there any viewpoints or assertions in it that we are not happy to endorse?
3. If there is anything we are not comfortable with, make a decision on whether to avoid sharing or retweeting the article, or to clarify in our tweet that we agree with X, but not Y

At Engage Web, we make sure we understand anything we share and don’t just look at the title, but we also encourage a social media campaign to be backed up by regular blogging that acts as the voice of your business, and ties in with Facebook and Twitter marketing. To learn more, why not speak to our team?

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