Adding the ability to edit tweets would not only be impractical, but would open the floodgates to further abuse of the platform.
“Sexy edit button” were the three words Twitter used today to say that it is terrified of the edit button.
While slightly unconventional, the tweet – which was in response to a post from voiceover artist and writer Summer Ray – finally provided some acknowledgement from the platform that they are aware of the repeated calls for the function. Twitter think it’s a bad idea – and they’re right.
Supporters of the introduction of the new button may well cite Facebook’s ‘edit history’ feature as an example of this setting being successful, but it is far from it. Clicking ‘view edit history’ is the only way in which we can find out if a post has been altered, and even then, we’re unlikely to click it and interrupt our automatic and robotic scrolling of our News Feed.
Transfer this over to Twitter, where a chronological algorithm makes things feel a lot more instantaneous, and the chances of us noticing that a tweet has been edited are even smaller. Even if a sign was added to suggest that it has, it would have to fight for space in a rectangle which is already populated by countless icons and pieces of information. People just wouldn’t be bothered.
The main argument for editing tweets is on the issue of spelling mistakes, where having the ability to edit out a rogue comma or a misspelling could prove useful. Indeed, while we have all fallen victim to the occasional grammatical error, how would such an edit function be enforced?
Even when one considers the detailed coding required, what would happen to a tweet when it’s edited? If it remains in situ, in its original place in the timeline, then what’s the point? The edit remains unacknowledged unless the scroller happened to retweet it onto their account. On the other hand, boosting edited tweets to the top of the timeline would be an algorithmic nightmare.
So the alternative is to leave it buried, drowned out by all the other tweets which populate our busy timelines. This is where it becomes dangerous.
Those who make the point about the feature potentially being exploited refer to how we could retweet a tweet with a statement we agree with, only to find it’s been changed to something abhorrent later. Even when we put a disclaimer in our bios saying that sharing other tweets do not imply endorsement, the association and connection is still there.
So some have suggested a character limit to prevent misuse. After all, character limits and the need to be succinct was at the heart of Twitter until it doubled its trademark 140-character count. Yet, where would such a limit end? One or two characters would be enough for a punctuation error, but may not be enough for autocorrect’s many failures. On the other hand, increasing it to account for bigger mistakes makes it easier for someone to type something far more hateful and vitriolic.
When you consider what this ‘perfect limit’ is, and how one even begins to design and implement an edit button, you start to realise that it’s probably easier to just delete and try again.