The Twitterati’s prayers have been answered: Twitter has officially announced it will be launching an edit button for its paid subscribers.
However, despite it being one of Blue Bird’s most frequently requested features, is it safe in an age of fake news and misinformation?
After years of quips and memes aimed at Twitter seemingly adding everything but the heavily requested edit feature, the company finally confirmed it was coming in a blog post on Thursday.
Users who pay $4.99 per month for Twitter Blue will soon be able to edit their tweets “a few times” within the first 30 minutes of posting them to the world.
Elon Musk, the Tesla billionaire currently trapped in an expensive love-hate relationship with the social media giant over his botched $44bn acquisition of it, ran a poll back in April gauging the demand for an edit button.
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Over 70% of the some four million people who voted confirmed they wanted to see it implemented.
Fake news galore
Not everyone wants the button, however, and a backlash is already kicking off around the internet. Most of this criticism is about the risk of the edit button spreading fake news and misinformation on the platform.
“An edit button on Twitter could spread misinformation, but this is also the case with other platforms like Facebook where you can already edit an existing post,” Gareth O’Sullivan, director of client media at The Creation Agency told Verdict.
It’s true, almost every other popular social media platform has allowed its users to edit posts for years.
“The difference, however, is that Twitter posts can and often do go viral very quickly circulating their way around the web,” O’Sullivan added.
A 2021 study from Pew Research Centre found that seven-in-10 US Twitter users get news from the site.
The potential misuse of an edit button on a viral news tweet is an extremely dangerous concept to many experts.
Fake news have haunted social media platforms for year. The spread of disinformation has been labelled a key factor in the 2016 presidential election, the Brexit referendum and the storming of Capitol Hill.
Talking to The Washington Post, Rachel Tobac, CEO of SocialProof Security, described how the new button could cause confusion.
She said: “Somebody will tweet something that says, ‘These two celebrities just started dating.’
“It goes viral. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, they go in and they change that to a crypto scam, a phishing link, voting disinformation.”
Musk himself as well as several other celebrities were the victims of a huge crypto scam in 2020 that saw their accounts hacked and used to promote a crypto scam.
Tobac added that it’s even more dangerous on Twitter because of how fast tweets can move markets and spread.
This happened back in February 2021 when Mark Cuban’s tweet about meme-inspired crypto coin Dogecoin sent prices soaring over 50% for the next 12 hours.
“I don’t think we need to add another potential disinformation feature that could be abused ahead of the next election cycle,” Tobac told the publication.
The edit button will have its limitations
The button will have some limitations in an attempt to quell any misuse.
“Tweets will be able to be edited a few times in the 30 minutes following their publication,” Twitter wrote.
“Edited tweets will appear with an icon, timestamp, and label so it’s clear to readers that the original tweet has been modified.”
The company says this will help “protect the integrity of the conversation and create a publicly accessible record of what was said.”
But O’Sullivan doesn’t believe these limitations will stop scammers from tweeting fake news and editing it after the damage has been done.
“The good news is that the tweets can only be edited during the first 30 minutes after they are posted,” O’Sullivan told us.
“Yet that doesn’t necessarily stop scammers from tweeting fake news and at the last minute, changing it to a crypto scam, a phishing link etc.”
O’Sullivan says Twitter should implement a review system that asks users to confirm if the edited message is “safe”.
The edit button will be put into the hands of Twitter Blue subscribers in New Zealand first, then expanded to Australia, Canada and the United States.
It is not currently clear if or when the rest of Twitter’s subscribers will gain access to the long-awaited button.
GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.