The San Francisco company and one of the largest social media platforms in the world, Twitter, has unveiled its plans to implement an edit feature that its users have demanded since the earliest days of the microblogging site. The feature will enable the users to alter their tweets for up to 30 minutes after posting them “a few times.”

“Think of it as a short period of time to do things like fix typos, add missed tags, and more,” stated Twitter in a blog announcing the rollout of the new feature.

Twitter Blue Gets to Beta Test the Feature

Initially, the edit button will not become available to all the users across the Twitter-sphere, but rather only to those who pay the $4.99 Twitter Blue subscription fee and hail from Canada, the US, New Zealand, or Australia.

The limited scope of the rollout has everything to do with Twitter wanting to run a small-scale test to better understand how users will interact with the latest feature. Twitter hopes to learn all the use, or abuse cases that stem from allowing users to edit their posts.

Edit Feature Has a High Potential for Abuse

For a platform built on transparency, integrity, and fact-checking, the ability to “redo” one’s tweets has the potential to disrupt the natural flow of discourse and challenge the current moderation process.

Mathias Vermeulen, director of AWO, a Brussels-based data rights agency, had this to say:

“I am really looking forward to finally editing annoying typos with this new feature, but I do hope that Twitter has thought through the potential abuse cases of such a feature as well. Any design choice by a social media platform can and will be abused by bad actors. An edit button could be used to circumvent content moderation policies and measures.”

Implementing an edit feature to a social media platform is as easy as one-two-three. However, anticipating all the potential abuse avenues is a different story altogether. Twitter needs to ask itself many questions and combine them with user feedback to assess risks realistically.

Is 30 minutes too long of a window to fix honest mistakes? Will the expiration of this period trigger the moderation process? If it can be moderated as soon as misinformation is caught (like it is now), can the tweet still be edited to circumvent moderation?

None of the issues above are unsolvable but will require a meticulous trial phase to be figured out. An anonymous source from Twitter told WIRED that 30 minutes might be too much, as most tweets that achieve virality do so in half the time. Tweeting misinformation about a hot-button issue could spread like wildfire, only to be rescinded on by the poster later on or claimed to be a joke. One potential solution is to slap a warning notice on the tweet and render it uneditable.

Twitter Could Be in Violation of European Laws over Edit Feature

Honesty and transparency on the platform are not the only reasons why Twitter needs to get a handle on the situation. The Digital Services Act in Europe requires companies to predict and solve all potential use cases when implementing such features.

While it seems like Twitter is devoting all these resources to accommodate most of its user base, not everyone thinks this change is necessary.

Elinor Carmi, a University of London lecturer who specializes in digital literacy says:

“The edit option relates to a minority of users who tweet. It might look like more because we follow and interact with the more ‘loud’ ones, but they are definitely not the majority.” 

Plans for the Future

Twitter has recently been experimenting with new features such as Twitter Circle, so the addition of an edit button is expected. For now, it’s unclear when the global rollout of the feature will occur. Users can already see which tweets have been edited, when, and the context of those tweets, but the edit button itself might be months away.

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