Twitter’s new edit button is a recipe for disaster
Good news! You can finally get rid of your tweets’ typos. Bad news! Hate speech and misinformation just got a lot harder to police.
It’s finally happened: Twitter is getting an edit function. Just over 6000 days ago, the first tweet ever was broadcast to the world by Jack Dorsey, the social media site’s co-founder. Pretty much ever since, people have been crying out for a function that allows them to edit their dodgy tweets. Well, now they have it. But just like Brexit or drinking 10 beers on an empty stomach, the bright ideas of the masses aren’t always as good as they might initially seem.
Right now, the feature is only available to Twitter Blue users, which means you have to pay for it. Oddly, this seems to contradict Twitter’s statement on why they’ve introduced the feature: “We’re hoping that with the availability of Edit Tweet, tweeting will feel more approachable and less stressful.” If you’re willing to subscribe for it, that is. If you haven’t got the cash, you can keep the stress.
Aside from the money thing, there are, of course, some aspects of being able to edit tweets that can be framed as positives. Firstly, people really want it, so like when Twitter Circles was rolled out last week and everyone got excited, Twitter will feel a bit fresh for around 10 minutes. But technically, the main positive is that you can edit things, obviously. This includes undoing a typo, altering something you said which you didn’t quite mean, updating something if your knowledge shifts (as opposed to tweeting underneath and hoping people see it), fixing a dodgy link without losing any engagement and adding a missing tag. All pretty useful things. Tweets can be edited “a few times” within half an hour of posting too, so there’s quite a lot of room for correcting things.
But other than that, there are mainly downsides to this new function. A big one is misinformation. This could rear its ugly head through anything from changing links to direct people to different sources as an online augment spirals or outright scamming people. It could also mean people might tweet some wild bullshit, wait for loads of people to comment “that’s fake news, man!!!” and then edit the tweet to something genuine. There is an option to view a tweet’s edit history (you click a link and it’ll show you all the different iterations of the tweet), but you can’t underestimate people’s inability to read beyond the first 280 characters. And you definitely can’t underestimate the lengths people will go to for social media engagement.
There’s not been any word on whether you’ll lose all your likes and retweets when you edit something, and so the edit button could also make retweeting (a huge function of Twitter) really risky. For instance, if someone retweets something they agree with, then the tweet gets edited to say the opposite, they might land themselves in a bit of a sticky situation. This could have hilarious results if used to troll your least favourite politician, but otherwise, it’s a recipe for disaster. Imagine if a social media manager at a fruit-based beverage brand retweeted something like “I love Innocent Smoothies” and then the user edited it to be “my Innocent Smoothie actually had a nail in it, I’m glad they’re recalling them”. Could either be a bit awks, or affect stock prices and damage the company’s reputation.
Perhaps we’ll start seeing people go to court over Twitter edits. Headlines like “[redacted] sues fake fan for tricking her into retweeting [insert bad thing to retweet here]” might start to surface, which would be incredibly online of us all. Is a Twitter where you can’t retweet freely in good faith worth an edit button? I’d say not.
Now, you might think the fact that this feature is only available to Twitter Blue subscribers means that the edit feature will only be used by hardcore Twitter-ers, crypto bros and businesses, but that’s still quite a lot of people. Also, it turns out paid-for social media is increasingly becoming a “thing”. Meta recently sent round an internal email stating they’re planning to form a team of people to build “possible paid features” across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
The Verge managed to get a forward of that email and their article reports that Meta is doing it as a reaction to Apple’s latest trick: asking if people want their apps to track them. Every time you ask it not to track, the ad revenue is cut off for the app, which is very lols. But who the hell would pay to use social media? Well, Meta might have gotten the idea from Snapchat. Their paid-for wing, Snapchat Plus, gained more than a million users in six weeks.
Since it’s only available in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, Twitter Blue is still pretty niche, but the edit button might convert a fair few people. Even if you’re forking out to edit your typos and online scraps, will the edit function prove that useful? Or will it end up in the graveyard of Twitter updates with Fleets? Only time (and, no doubt, the ensuing scenes) will tell.