You’ve got to excuse me. I’ve got this thing with Twitter disclaimers. I think we’re like lemmings in the way we copy snippets of blind reassurance into our bios. I’ve suggested that the 911 blog disclaimer is a practical joke initiated by the legal community.
‘These tweets are my own,’ is the workhorse of disclaimers but I wonder what purpose it serves. What’s interesting to me is that we rarely see similar disclaimers used in other forms of communication. When I spoke at AGA last week I failed to begin with a slide reminding the audience that my comments were not the official position of Texas Children’s Hospital or Baylor College of Medicine. At cocktail parties we don’t use ‘pre small talk’ qualifiers that identify us as non-spokespersons of our employers. What reasonable person would really believe that my Twitter feed is the official feed for the delivery of my hospital’s public opinion?
And do we really need to announce that our shared links don’t represent endorsement? Who in the free world really thinks that when I retweet a link or idea I’m formally endorsing the site on the receiving end? When was the last time a shared link lead to identifiable damages from the lack of the endorsement disclaimer?
I can understand disclaimers about medical advice. But we’re all waiting for that first big judgment against the ‘disclaimerless’ doctor brought to her knees by that loose tweet construed by the patient-victim as individual medical advice. Rest assured that when it happens you’ll hear it here first.
Ultimately I think this use of language is about fear. But I suspect that those interested in getting at us won’t be deterred by cut-and-paste disclaimers. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the practical utility of the disclaimer.