Posted by: mobrienweiss | February 11, 2013

Twitter posts: can a tweeter ban you from re-tweeting?

If you have your Twitter account set to “protect” your tweets, can you ban and/or restrict your followers from re-tweeting your tweets? That’s the question the Jeff Sonderman asked when reporting on journalist Teri Buhl’s assertion that no one can re-tweet her tweets because she explicitly says they can’t in her Twitter bio.

twitterBuhl’s Twitter bio reads: “Investigative Journalist covering Finance/Wall Street. No Tweets Are Publishable.”

Even though Sonderman said Buhl had her tweets open for public perusal “a few months ago” but now has them “protected” (meaning only people she allows to see them can gain access to them), Buhl told Sonderman that she believes she can decide whether her now-private Twitter musings can be re-tweeted or not:

“I see Twitter as having a conversation, but it’s not a publication. Especially when my tweets are protected — I am not having a public conversation. And I’m not saying things on Twitter so that somebody’s going to pick them up and go publish it. That’s not my goal. I’m not like Piers Morgan or Henry Biodget out there. I am not tweeting to get ‘picked up,’ I don’t want it to spread anywhere.”

Sonderman says that to make her point, Buhl reportedly said to one person who questioned her assertion that she can ban re-tweets of her tweets: “Do you carry libel insurance?”

In response to the controversy, Buhl wrote on her web site that her main issue is one of respecting others’ intellectual property:

“You see I think we need some case law to define when online bloggers or journalist can lift other people’s reporting, ideas, photos; whether it’s on twitter or another chat platform. This isn’t about ‘privacy issues’ as so many have assumed in their reporting on this saga it’s about journalist/bloggers taking/lifting each others work and making money off the expense of the person who created it in the first place. If I had unlimited funds I’d love to start a class action suit against Huffington Post or Business Insider the worst content scraper and re-writers I know.”

What do you think? Buhl’s individual case notwithstanding, can a Twitter user assert that no one else can republish his or her tweets? Is there or should there be an assumption that what you post on a protected Twitter account can be protected as intellectual property? What about publicly accessible tweets that aren’t protected?

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  1. I think that when someone posts on a protected account it is assumed that what they post is meant to be private. On the other hand, however, the person who runs the twitter is allowed to choose who they allow to follow them. By choosing who can or cannot follow your tweets, you are giving them the responsibility to view your profile. This should mean that you trust them enough to respect your wishes of not wanting your tweets to be shared.

    With that being said, Twitter does not have any specific rules against publishing what you make available to your twitter followers. I think that if you have a protected profile, you are able to monitor who can or cannot see what you post, therefore if there is someone that you do not think will honor your requests of not wanting your tweets shared on other media outlets.

    Twitter is used for many different media events. Twitter can be used to follow these events and get different perspectives of public events. This type of sharing can be helpful to gain a further knowledge about a topic. For example, during the Superbowl, the knowledge of the blackout was made public knowledge first on Twitter. I believe that when a user signs up for Twitter, there should be an option to choose whether or not their tweets are shared on any other type of outlet. That way they are giving permission for their tweets to be shared and it stops some tweets from being shared if the users do not want them to be.

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