One of the larger debates in Twitter’s history has been over if the service should have an edit button, with pro arguments that that would be useful to fix typos and con arguments that editing could be abused to alter tweets’ entire meanings after those tweets have been retweeted or embedded. Twitter said earlier this year they would explore the idea of an edit button, and they’re now testing it internally with staff and then expanding it from there, starting with Twitter Blue subscribers in one country. And this will involve viewable edit history and time locks after 30 minutes. Here’s their official tweet on this:
if you see an edited Tweet it's because we're testing the edit button
this is happening and you'll be okay
— Twitter (@Twitter) September 1, 2022
The official Twitter blog has more on what the plans are, including the edit history function and how this will be rolled out. Some key parts of that:
So what is Edit Tweet, you ask? Great question. Edit Tweet is a feature that lets people make changes to their Tweet after it’s been published. Think of it as a short period of time to do things like fix typos, add missed tags, and more.
For this test, Tweets will be able to be edited a few times in the 30 minutes following their publication. Edited Tweets will appear with an icon, timestamp, and label so it’s clear to readers that the original Tweet has been modified. Tapping the label will take viewers to the Tweet’s Edit History, which includes past versions of the Tweet.
For context, the time limit and version history play an important role here. They help protect the integrity of the conversation and create a publicly accessible record of what was said.
…Like any new feature, we’re intentionally testing Edit Tweet with a smaller group to help us incorporate feedback while identifying and resolving potential issues. This includes how people might misuse the feature. You can never be too careful.
Later this month, we’ll be expanding Edit Tweet access to Twitter Blue subscribers. As part of their subscription, they receive early access to features and help us test them before they come to Twitter. The test will be localized to a single country at first and expand as we learn and observe how people use Edit Tweet. We’ll also be paying close attention to how the feature impacts the way people read, write, and engage with Tweets.
The publicly-viewable edit history and 30-minute time limit both seem like strong aspects of this. Viewable edit history works well for Wikipedia; when there are sports-related vandalisms or jokes made there, it’s usually easy enough to identify and correct them. (The issues with Wikipedia citation have usually come from edits to more obscure articles, where the wrong information isn’t noticed and then gets repeated or used without further checking.) And it may work even better here, as this is each person editing their own tweets rather than a group editing a single article. And if the edits are fully viewable, that should make it easy to spot notable changes.
There are potential benefits here on the sports side of Twitter. If a widely-retweeted tweet has a typo, which we see quite a bit with the rush to get reports out there first, this could make it correctable after the fact without deleting a tweet that already gained traction. This also could help make Twitter more appealing for those who like the immediacy of the service, but don’t like when they make typos they can’t change. But we’ll have to see how it works in these tests.
It is notable that Twitter’s continuing to experiment with different features, though, including Spaces, Circles, and now these planned new edit tweet functions. We’ll see how the new features work for them.