The feature, announced Wednesday, will be available to Canadian subscribers of Twitter Blue, the company’s paid subscription service that has only launched in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
Internal Twitter teams have already begun their testing, and these will be extended to Twitter Blue subscribers towards the end of September.
The feature will allow subscribers to “multiple” edit their tweets, add or remove tags and rearrange attached media, within 30 minutes of posting. Modified messages marked with an icon and a label indicating that they have been modified and users will have access to a time-stamped history of modifications.
The company designed the edit button – its “most requested feature to date” – as a way to reduce the frustration of having to delete a tweet or leave a typo showing, because there is no currently no way to edit messages.
“We hope that with the availability of (this) feature, Twitter will be more accessible and less intimidating,” says an official Twitter blog post about the change.
The rollout of the tool comes as Canada seeks to regulate tech companies and pressure mounts to tackle online harassment.
“But if we’re looking for a tool that will make Twitter more productive and welcoming, and a healthy place, this isn’t the one,” said Natasha Tusikov, assistant professor of social sciences at York University.
“If Twitter is hoping that an editing tool will improve public discourse and make it a safer, more productive, and more engaging public square, that’s definitely not going to happen. It doesn’t address any of Twitter’s structural issues.”
Among its biggest problems are the trolling, doxing and harassment that plagues the platform and often goes unaddressed by Twitter and law enforcement, Ms Tusikov added.
Doxing is the posting of personal information, including residential addresses, online for the purpose of intimidating.
Ms Tusikov fears that people with malicious intentions will post a message and then edit it into something else derogatory or hateful as it starts to go viral.
A user who has already “liked” or re-forwarded the original post might not be aware of these changes unless they revisit the post, but they will be linked to it.
Richard Lachman, professor of digital media at Metropolitan University in Toronto, stressed that it would also be up to people to notice what changes were made to messages and reminded that humanity does not have a great record when it comes to relates to attention to detail in tweets.
“The internet isn’t used to reading things very carefully,” he said. He’s used to seeing what’s right there, not the fine print that says it’s been changed.”
The version of the edit button that Twitter Blue subscribers will be able to test may not be the one that eventually rolls out to all users.
The test will initially be localized to a single country, but the feature will be refined and expanded as Twitter learns and observes how people use it. As the company put it on its blog, “you can never be too careful.”
Argument with Elon Musk
The launch of the edit posts button comes as Twitter is embroiled in a legal battle with tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who was set to buy the social media company for US$44 billion. He has since backed out of the deal claiming Twitter has more robo accounts than she disclosed, but Twitter is suing Mr Musk to force the sale to go through.
Elon Musk had polled users of the social network earlier this year to find out if they would like to have access to an edit button, and 73.6% of respondents said they would welcome the change.
It’s unclear why Twitter chose this moment to lift the lid on its edit button and whether Mr. Musk had anything to do with the decision, but the failure of the deal could “push (the company ) to be much more serious about growing its revenue,” Lachman said.
He applauded the company for taking a ‘slow and deliberate’ approach to the launch, but wished the company was more transparent about its explanations as Jack Dorsey, who quit as CEO of Twitter last year long opposed the edit function.
“It’s a bit dishonest to be so strongly against something and then go back without (…) giving a reason why this change is happening,” he said.