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High-profile users have been clamoring for it for months, including reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who teased Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey about it in 2018 at Kanye West’s birthday party. The Twitter edit button is finally available right now.
Today, the business disclosed that the ability to modify tweets is currently being tested internally and will soon be accessible to users of Twitter Blue, the business’ subscription service. All Twitter users will be able to view altered tweets in their timelines, along with proof that they were changed after they were published, even though the option to edit tweets will initially only be available to those who pay $5 per month.
Twitter just 15 months ago was advising users via its official account on the website that “you don’t need an edit button, you just need to forgive yourself.” The test represents a significant U-turn for the company. Though theoretically more straightforward than it is, in fact, adding an edit button requires Twitter to consider the worst-case scenarios in which malicious users may potentially tamper with the feature.
In the company’s trial, users won’t be able to make any changes to their tweets after posting them. Those who have the option will have 30 minutes to “a couple of times” alter their post. The business wrote in a blog post announcing the function’s launch, “Think of it as a limited time to do things like fix typos, add missed tags, and more.”
Director of the data rights organization AWO in Brussels, Mathias Vermeulen, says he is eager to use the new function to finally fix bothersome errors. But I do hope that Twitter has considered the instances in which users might abuse such a function. Bad actors may and will take advantage of any design decision a social media network makes. Getting around content moderation rules and restrictions is possible by using the edit button.
Before releasing the tool to a more significant user base, Twitter claims to limit the number of users who have access to the edit capabilities to incorporate user feedback into its design decisions. The company’s blog post says, “This covers how users might abuse the tool.” It would be best if you always use caution.
One important question is whether 30 minutes is a generous enough amount of time to fix any unintentional mistakes in posts. Tweets can go viral in half that time, according to a Twitter employee with knowledge of the situation who asked to remain anonymous and spoke to us.
Vermeulen queries, “Will the edited tweet be hidden behind a warning notice? If you tweet false information about a political candidate during a major television election discussion, it quickly gets viral. After receiving millions of views, you modify the tweet to say, “Forgot to mention that this was a joke, people!” He asserts that if it discovered the unedited tweet during that timeframe, Twitter would probably hide it behind a misinformation notice. However, doing so might restrict someone’s ability to amend the message.
The fact that the context of what was modified first hides from other users is another criticism critics of Twitter’s edit tool is sure to raise. Users of Twitter frequently don’t read the content of the pieces they share in its short, snappy style of discourse, as shown by the platform’s June 2020 implementation of a popup asking users if they intended to read the articles they retweeted before publishing to their network. Users may examine the tweet’s edit history to determine whether the content is the same as they originally shared it, but it is unclear if they will do so when a trending tweet is sent to their feed. The past would indicate that it is unlikely.
Yevgeniy Golovchenko, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen who studies the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation, acknowledges the dangers of malicious actors abusing the feature. Still, he also sees it as a potentially advantageous change for those without ulterior motives. At the moment, if a Twitter user tweets anything incorrectly and it is pointed out, they must decide whether to leave the false and perhaps embarrassing tweet up or delete it. He speculates that the edit button might partially resolve the problem. The Twittersphere will be able to rectify itself more efficiently as a result. If successful, this might represent a significant shift in the fight against misinformation.
According to Jean Burgess, a professor of digital media at the Queensland University of Technology and the author of a book on Twitter, it’s a generally good move. According to her, “the safeguards, the time limit, and transparency measures—providing information that something has been modified, and being able to disclose the previous version—seem to meet most of the fundamental issues about potential misuse.” “The core Twitter group of early adopters has long requested this. Although it’s a move made in good faith and shouldn’t cause too much controversy, I suppose we should always be on the lookout for sneaky characters who might surprise us.
Naturally, there are restrictions on how they edit functionalities when unintentionally disseminating inaccurate information. Anyone who has spent time on Twitter knows that content is spread in other ways besides retweets. Instead of using Twitter’s built-in retweet feature, some users choose to screenshot other users’ tweets as images and share them. People might photograph a previously altered tweet that has been reshared on the platform, perhaps outpacing the reach of any restored message. Another problem, which no platform can address, is that any information corrections can only be made on the platform itself: Many users will already be familiar with the wrong tweet’s original form and won’t ever see it again.
The bulk of Twitter users is not going to notice the edit button change much either. According to Elinor Carmi, lecturer in digital society at City, University of London, specializing in digital literacy, “The edit option refers to a minority of people that tweet.” She continues, “But they are absolutely not the majority. It could seem like more since we follow and engage with the more ‘loud’ ones.
Carmi is also concerned that the edit feature will make it simpler for people in positions of authority to avoid taking accountability for their statements. Because high-profile users can’t edit their tweets, she argues, “this is both an opportunity and a danger because we can hold people like politicians accountable for what they say.” If they keep modifying their tweets, it will be more challenging to follow and analyze them. The edit function would maintain track of what users’ tweets originally said and how the user changed it, but the way it’s programmed, users must click a popup to view the edit history.
According to Twitter’s blog post, all of these problems are in mind, which explains why its early tests were closed-off. But for the feature to thrive, these fundamental issues must be resolved, and as we are learning more and more, what is said on social media may have a significant impact on our society and lives.