Will an edit button help or harm Twitter?

Speaking at the Indian Institute of Technology in November last year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey suggested that the platform may at some point roll out an Edit button which would enable users to alter the content of their tweets after sharing them. He said that the company was currently weighing up the various use cases for such a function, such as allowing people to quickly fix mistakes in their tweets.

However, correcting spelling mistakes is only one potential use for an edit button — there are other, far more nefarious ways in which this feature could be leveraged. Twitter already has a huge problem with harassment and hate speech, with very specific terms of service which dictate what is and isn’t considered abuse, and which to a certain degree give trolls leeway. An edit button would make it far easier for troll accounts to implicate other users; for instance, by posting an innocuous or relatable statement which is widely shared, then altering the content of that message so that it appears as if a large number of people are endorsing hate speech.

It also means that a user could post a potentially controversial tweet, and then change it if they get too much flak, essentially dodging accountability for what they said, and gaslighting their followers in the process.

As it currently stands, it does appear as if Twitter might impose a time limit on an edit function, meaning users would only have a finite window in which to alter their tweets.  “You have to pay attention to what are the use cases for the edit button,” says Dorsey. “A lot of people want the edit button because they want to quickly fix a mistake they made, like a misspelling or tweeting the wrong URL. That’s a lot more achievable than allowing people to edit any tweet all the way back in time.”

But Dorsey and co. need to focus not just on what is “achievable”, but what is responsible, and make an informed, conscientious decision about whether allowing people to fix typos is worth opening up Pandora’s Box and creating a whole new host of methods of spreading misinformation and hate speech.

After all, if you’re that aggravated about a minor error, you can always tweet and delete.  

Clive Reeves PR