Tweet editing is coming, and over the last few days, we’ve gained some more insight into just how Twitter’s edit option will work, and how users will be able to track changes to ensure transparency in the process.
Which is an essential element. The reason that Twitter hasn’t implemented tweet editing in the past is because the brief nature of tweets theoretically leaves them more susceptible to subtle changes which could misconstrue the original message.
As explained by tech journalist Casey Newton:
“The tweets-are-sacred crowd’s biggest fear, so far as I can tell, is that someone will use the editing feature maliciously to make those who liked or retweeted the original tweet look terrible. For example, a picture of an adorable puppy might be edited, after it has been retweeted thousands of times, to display a picture of something deeply offensive, such as the president of the United States.”
Is that any more true of Twitter than it is of, say, Facebook, or Instagram? Probably not, but the viral sharing mechanics of Twitter, through the habitual usage of retweets, could arguably make this more of a concern in the app.
So if Twitter is going to implement tweet editing, there would ideally also be a publicly accessible log of changes, so that users can check in on what the original message was, which could lessen concerns on this element.
Which is what Twitter is working on – according to reverse engineering superstar Jane Manchun Wong, Twitter’s coming edit option will not update the original tweet, as such, but will instead create a new version of the tweet that would be inserted in its place.
Looks like Twitter’s approach to Edit Tweet is immutable, as in, instead of mutating the Tweet text within the same Tweet (same ID), it re-creates a new Tweet with the amended content, along with the list of the old Tweets prior of that edit
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) April 16, 2022
That would then enable Twitter to include an ‘Edit History’ log within each tweet.
So it looks like you will be able to access a full edit log for each tweet – which won’t eliminate the editing concern entirely (once people have re-tweeted something, they’re probably not going to go back and re-check it), but it could at least give people an out if they were criticized for re-tweeting a message that had later been changed to something else.
App research Nima Owji has also posted a video clip of the new Edit Tweet option in action.
Based on the advanced nature of the function in these examples, it does seem like we’re going to get tweet editing sooner rather than later – though I maintain that once it’s here, it won’t be everything that people have hoped for all these years.
Like, it’ll be handy, but once you have the option available, the novelty of it will wear off within a couple of days, and it will just become another thing, another tool to use in your tweet process. It won’t change the world, or even Twitter in any significant way.
But it could be good PR for the platform, and as it works to grow its user base, in line with its ambitious 2023 targets, it needs to do all that it can to win goodwill, while the complications of Elon Musk’s takeover push also feed into the public perception battle for the app.
Whether Musk’s bid is successful or not, tweet editing will be on the way. And in Musk’s vision of a new, ‘free speech’ aligned Twitter, it could become even more important – or harmful.