An edit button won’t solve Twitter’s problems
Twitter resisted adding the ability to edit tweets for years, even though it was the most requested feature by its users, including the potential owner. Elon Musk. Former chief executive Jack Dorsey said in 2020 that the company would likely never introduce an edit button, saying it would ruin the “vibe” of Twitter’s early days as an SMS messaging service.
Experts have repeatedly pointed out that the ability to edit tweets could allow bad actors to rewrite history and spread misinformation, even if a full tweet history is available.
For example, innocuous tweets that go viral could easily be edited to later post misinformation or hate speech, and even if previous versions of the tweet are visible, that doesn’t necessarily mean people will watch them. An edit button would also, in theory, make high-profile users whose tweets attract mass attention even bigger targets for hacking, if bad actors know the tweets are guaranteed to have mass audiences.
Users will be notified that tweets have been edited with an icon, timestamp and label, which Twitter said is designed to make it clear that the original message was edited within half an hour of being sent. Tweets can be edited “a few times” within this time frame, and a log of how a tweet was edited will show up when someone taps on the tag.
Twitter has acknowledged that people could abuse the feature and says it is testing that potential. It’s probably an attempt to downplay, says Konstantinos Komaitis, an internet policy expert.
“Depending on how Twitter decides to design this, it can either help people with typos and there’s nothing more, or it can actually change, I believe, the whole public discourse and the way which we interact and share an understanding,” he says. .
Giving users an edit button could also be construed as a convenient distraction from the deeper issues facing the platform: its upcoming legal battle with Musk, the glaring privacy and security issues laid bare by the former security chief turned whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, and ongoing concerns about his deep-seated failure to curb trolling, hate speech and other toxic behavior. An edit button does nothing to solve these problems.
Alerting users that a tweet has been edited will be key to minimizing the risk of abuse, Komaitis pointed out, using the example of someone tweeting a photo of a cute dog to generate positive responses, then to trade for a photo of Hitler.