Tech & The Web

Will a Twitter Edit Button Create More Misinformation?


Sixteen years after the social media platform launched, Twitter has finally decided to roll out an edit button for tweets.

If there’s one thing Twitter users wanted since the start, it’s an edit button. Twitter users managed to adapt their social media postings to the platform’s odd 140-character limit. It took until November of 2017 for Twitter to double that limit to 280 characters, which makes it much easier to better express an idea.

But from day one, users needed to do something most users seem unwilling to do: proofread before they click that big “Tweet” button.

I’m one of those folks who always try to proofread. I even proofread text messages. Yes, I know I am definitely in the minority in that endeavor.

Depending on the speed and urgency of a message you’re trying to send, it can be easy to miss a typo. That’s why a true edit button would be such a help. It’s also why users called for one for so long.

As it stands now, without an edit button as an option, you have two choices. The easiest option is to live with the typo. Some of us hate that option. The other option is to delete the tweet and repost with corrections. But if the tweet already accumulated likes and retweets, deleting may be a hard choice.

Twitter edit button allows changes…but some restrictions apply

Sorry, friends, but that typo that was just pointed out to you from a five-year-old tweet is off-limits. The edit button doesn’t give you unlimited edit capabilities. In fact, the option gives you a half-hour from the time you first post the tweet. After 30 minutes, consider the tweet locked in stone (unless you delete it, of course.)

Within that half-hour window, there’s one more limit users will face. You have five edits. Yes, five. After you make the fifth edit to the same tweet, Twitter won’t allow further edits. It’s locked in stone, even if you still have time left on that 30-minute countdown.

If you need more than six tries for one tweet, you might be too drunk to be on social media. (Six tries comes from the original post plus five edits.)

One other thing to note: When you make an edit, the tweet will feature, in small type, the word Edited below it. It will be a hyperlink that will reveal the previous versions. So depending on the size of your faux pas, you might still be better off deleting it and posting over again. Otherwise, anyone who takes the time to click the link will see what it is you’ve hidden anyway.

Twitter edit button option prompts misinformation concerns

Poynter published a recent article on the Twitter edit button titled, “Fact-checkers respond to Twitter’s new edit feature.”

One of the comments about a potential downside focuses on misinformation.

Emmanuel Vincent, the founder of the French science-focused fact-checker Science Feedback, said this:

“One concern I could see is if bad actors share misinformation in tweets and then later quietly modify the tweet after it goes viral to avoid being held accountable.”

I suppose that’s a possibility. But once the change has been made, even if the tweets are retweeted, the corrected text displays. You’d have to assume that everyone who sees that “edited” notation would actually click it to see the original version. I doubt seriously if most people would do so.

I could imagine that someone might intentionally post false information, then edit, and add to the edited post a message like “Check edit history” to increase the chance misinformation might be seen. (That way, the “corrected” version might still go viral.)

I’m hoping Twitter isn’t planning to back off on its misinformation checks. I hope that it will scan all versions of a tweet and act accordingly. No matter what a corrected tweet might be changed to say, misinformation should still be flagged.

I’d like to think that might be the challenge that prevented Twitter from getting around to adding an edit option for so long. Otherwise, I can’t think of what seems like a valid reason for the delay.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.