For as long as there have been fat-fingered Twitter fans, there have been calls for the platform to add an edit button. After all, one typo is all it takes to undermine your toastiest take on the latest political fiasco.
After years of deleting their misspelt missives (or correcting mistakes with asterisked replies), the patience of Twitterers has finally been rewarded. A mere decade after Facebook allowed users to edit their comments, Twitter has officially announced that it’s working on an edit button. And despite choosing to break the news on 1 April, it seems the new feature isn’t Twitter’s attempt at tomfoolery.
Confirmed on 6 April in – what else? – a tweet, Twitter’s communications team revealed that an edit mechanism has been in the works since last year. And not, apparently, as the result of a poll posted the day before by Tesla owner and new Twitter board member, Elon Musk. A poll which received more than 4 million responses, overwhelmingly in favour of the edit button.
But rollout won’t be straightforward. Acknowledging that an edit button has been easily the most requested Twitter feature for quite some time, Twitter’s Head of Consumer Product, Jay Sullivan, was keen to highlight the tricky decisions that lie ahead of its implementation.
Tweets have an infamous ability to make – or change – history. But with an unrestricted edit tool, the integrity of Twitter as the internet’s public record could be compromised. With an edit button, covfefe could have played out very differently.
That’s why Twitter is experimenting with things like time limits on edits, as well as transparency about what’s been edited. Facebook tackled this issue by always giving users the option to view original posts. But on a platform where dispatches spread like wildfire and fact-checking often falls down the list of priorities, Twitter will need to make content amendments crystal clear. If it doesn’t, there’s the obvious risk that retweeted tweets could be edited after the fact to suggest endorsement of a very different message.
For now, Twitter plans to test its new edit tool in Labs, as an early-access feature for Twitter Blue subscribers. According to a series of tweets from Sullivan, Twitter “will be actively seeking input and adversarial thinking in advance of launching Edit”. So just like the tweets it will one day tweak, Twitter’s edit option is likely to be amended over time.