In an opinion today, Judge Woods ruled, in essence, that retweets are not endorsements. The ruling came in connection with a denial of CNN’s motion for reconsideration in a case brought by two family members of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The court had previously ruled that the plaintiffs’ false light claim against CNN could proceed, based on a CNN report that suggested the plaintiffs were followers of the conspiracy group QAnon.
Judge Woods rejected the argument (initially accepted in a report and recommendation by Magistrate Judge Cave) that the plaintiffs’ “likes” and “retweets” of pro-QAnon tweets rendered the association with QAnon substantially true:
CNN argues that the Flynns “publicized their support for QAnon” through retweets. In the R&R, Judge Cave also relied on the Flynns’ retweets to support the conclusion that CNN’s statement was substantially true. In one example, Jack [Flynn] retweeted a post which stated, “Qanon is not a violent conspiracy. We are every day people seeking truth. . . . . Qanon’s, share and tell your story.” . Judge Cave concluded that “[b]y using the word ‘we,’ Jack included himself as one who ‘follows the opinions’ of QAnon, and invited others who ‘share[d]’ those opinions to join his comments.”
By relying on the Flynns’ retweets, CNN assumes that the Flynns believed in, and adopted, everything that they retweeted. In essence, CNN is asking the Court to conclude as a matter of law that retweeting a statement is the same as making the statement in the first instance.
The Court disagrees. Jack did not make the statement, “We are every day people seeking truth.” He retweeted it. There are many reasons that someone might retweet a statement; a retweet is not necessarily an endorsement of the original tweet, much less an endorsement of the unexpressed belief system of the original tweeter, as CNN would have it. Therefore, at the motion to dismiss stage, the Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that Jack adopted the content of the tweet and was therefore calling himself a member of the QAnon movement by using the word “we.”