Why Twitter doesn’t have ‘Edit’ button?

There could be many reasons why you might want to delete a tweet: you misunderstood something and wish to take back the tweet, wrote something embarrassing while being tipsy or maybe accidentally posted a tweet instead of sending DM. Or perhaps your tweet simply included a typo, and that just will not do.

Nevertheless all the mess could be easily solved by using the feature Twitter users have always begged for: ‘Edit’ button. It seems like a logical feature request, since most people tweet from their smartphones so there's a big possibility of spelling something wrong.

Right now, if tweets have typos or factual errors, users have to live with them or delete the original and post a new version, losing any retweets, likes and embedded shares elsewhere. And yet, deleting the tweet actually can’t undo its damage. It lives on unaltered in screenshots, and in articles that embedded it in such a way that the text remains even after the tweet is gone.

There are also problems with simply deleting a tweet. When you delete a tweet, you are in effect hiding it. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there is no clear way for others to ascribe motive. Are you trying to conceal that you ever said such a thing, or are you just trying to prevent the further spread of inaccuracies? Should you preserve the record of your inaccuracy? Should you delete it and link to an archive of it?

Obviously there is controversy over the concept of editing tweets; Facebook broached this years ago when it added an edit option: While you can change the content of a post, everyone can still see what you changed.

Will Oremus has described the idea of ‘Edit’ button: “Ideally, the edited tweet would replace the original, not only on Twitter, but everywhere that it had been embedded across the Web. It still wouldn’t reach all of the people who saw the original—corrections rarely do—but it would reach some of them, and a follow-up tweet could put the word out more widely. An edited tweet is marked as such, and includes an option to view the original so that you can see exactly what was changed.”

WIRED has gone even further and has proposed that “the original author should have the option of notifying everyone who retweeted that there’s been a correction, which they could then publish to the top of their timelines with a single click. That gives them theoption to push out the edited tweet to their followers, without forcing an update which seems like it could be ripe for abuse.”

On the other hand, the ability to go back and edit what you’ve said could ruin Twitter’s real-time, ‘stream of consciousness’ nature. Many good stories (see previous blog posts) have come from someone who has tweeted too much accidentally. As one of Twitter users has pointed out: “The common objection to edited tweets is that an unscrupulous tweeter might change meaning of tweet after wide retweeting.”

In short, while the automatic retweet button on Twitter lets people spread information far and wide beyond your followers, there’s no way to makes sure those same people see your attempts to correct it.

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