Twitter Letting You Edit Tweets Would Be Crazy, Right?

    December 18, 2013
    Josh Wolford

Facebook finally let you do it a few months ago – why not Twitter? Rumor has it that Twitter may be working on a feature that would allow you to edit your tweets after the fact – you know, after they’ve already been retweeted in the world’s largest pool of disinformation.

Ok – that would, unequivocally, be one of the craziest things ever. Is it likely to happen? Well, we have some conflicting reports.

The whole rumor started with Matthew Keys, writing for The Desk. Here’s what he had to say, quoting three sources familiar with the matter:

Once a user publishes a tweet, an “edit” feature will be present for a limited amount of time (Twitter is still currently working out the length of time the feature would be available). The feature would allow a user to make “slight changes” to the contents of a tweet, such a removing a word, correcting a typo or adding one or two additional words.

An edit could only be performed once per tweet. Once the edit is made, it would be immediately visible on that user’s Twitter feed. The edit would also show up on the feed of anyone who re-published the tweet using Twitter’s built-in “re-tweet” feature.

Apart from the limitations on editing windows and number of edits, Keys also says that Twitter is working on an algorithm that would be able to determine whether or not the general intent of the tweet had been altered by the edit and act appropriately – I guess to catch a scenario where some user completely alters the meaning of a tweet with a very small edit.

Adding an “e” to an “I LOVE RAP” tweet or something.

Apparently, this has been a “top priority” at Twitter for months.

Or has it?

Jennifer Van Grove over at CNET is saying the exact opposite. Quoting sources familiar with the matter, she says that Twitter is not actively exploring a post-edit feature.

And here’s what Wired writer Mat Honan had to say:

Ok. Let’s talk this out. Even with limits on have many characters a user could edit after the fact and a small window for making the edit, users would have the ability to completely alter tweets. Oh, President Jack Smith is not dead? Wait, President Jack Smith is dead. That’s a pretty small edit and a pretty big shift in meaning.

And it’s all of the retweets that make this idea sound kooky. If an edited tweet did in fact also change on everyone’s timeline who retweeted it – wow. Just think about the implications of this. You think misinformation travels fast on Twitter now? Holy shit.

An algorithm to catch tweets that have been maliciously altered? Ok, sounds good. It also sounds hard.

The only way I can see this not causing a boatload of trouble is if Twitter somehow marked any edited tweet or retweet with the equivalent of crime scene tape. “EDITED EDITED EDITED” pasted across the tweet in giant, yellow letters. You think a little icon in the corner that says “edited” is going to catch the eye of a Twitter population ready to crucify someone for some crazy tweet?

For now, I think it’s best to just stick to deleting erroneous tweets or tweeting a follow-up correction. But who knows? Twitter may actually be thinking about this. It’s not like they haven’t done some crazy stuff before – I mean, just last week they tried to make it so you couldn’t really block another user.