Skip to main content

Why a Twitter Edit button is a bad idea

Twitter Op Ed
Twitter Op Ed (Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)

I've been paying $3/month for a Twitter Blue account for months now. It offers various "premium" features that vary by platform, including select ad-free articles, bookmark folders, themes, and custom app icons. However, those features aren't why I continue to pay for a membership. That would be the Undo Tweet feature, which lets you edit or delete a tweet after tapping the Tweet button for up to 60 seconds.

Now comes word Twitter is thinking about giving users an actual Edit button. The feature, which is expected to ship to Twitter Blue customers first, would let users edit already published tweets at any time.

On the surface, this sounds like a worthwhile move and one that Twitter's newly crowned larger shareholder, Elon Musk, has been advocating for some time. However, I'd suggest that offering an Edit button would be bad news for Twitter and its users.

The everyday Twitter user can currently send out a 280-character tweet on supported devices, such as the best iPhone, the iPhone 13. After the tweet gets published, Twitter users can like or reply to it or send a retweet, with or without an added comment. When the original poster sees a typo or decides the tweet is no longer appropriate, the only recourse is to delete it.

According to Jake Sullivan, Twitter's head of consumer products, the proposed Edit button could allow users to "fix (sometimes embarrassing) mistakes, typos and hot takes in the moment" while leaving likes and comments intact.

That last point is where significant issues could arise.

Let's say you send out a viral tweet that gets lots of comments and retweets. Then, hours, days, or even years later, you decide to adjust that tweet to consider new thinking or information. But, unfortunately, those comments, based on the original tweet, could suddenly make less sense or, worse, make it sound like someone is advocating a position that they were not.

Twitter Logo Blue

Twitter Logo Blue (Image credit: Twitter)

Though I have great respect for Musk and can't wait to see what he brings to Twitter now that he has a seat at the table, I can't get behind an Edit button unless it comes with certain safeguards. First, any changed tweet must include language noting what characters were changed and when. Second, I'd limit the time tweets can get adjusted, perhaps for as little as just a few hours.

Politicians, for example, are notorious for deleting old tweets that put them in a bad light; I can't imagine what would happen if their overworked staff now had the option to change those pesky tweets to put the boss in a better light.

This brings me back to the genius and simplicity of the Twitter Blue Undo Tweet feature. When Twitter Blue users send out a tweet, publishing is delayed for up to 60 seconds, depending on the user settings. The tweet can get edited or deleted during that time without ever being posted for the public to see. This is plenty of time for someone to recognize a typo or be really sure the tweet's appropriate for publication. Anything beyond this doesn't make any sense.

If Twitter is hellbent on giving the masses an Edit button, I suggest an interesting give and take.

While giving us an Edit button, Twitter should also remove the ability to delete posts. That way, users can still clarify past comments with edits BUT not have the opportunity to wipe those comments away forever.

It will be interesting to see how the Twitter Edit button develops. Hopefully, the powers to be won't rush it and ultimately come out with something that people can support and find useful. Stay tuned.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

6 Comments
  • You can’t really say anything about a feature without discussing execution. I am not a Twitter user myself, but there are several solutions to this. For example, a user could be forced to agree to only edit within the first 60 seconds, and after that an ‘edit’ would start marking each tweet with a visual ‘edited’ icon, which when selected, would expose the edit history with each revision listed. Perhaps Twitter could go as far as marking each ‘retweet’ as “this tweet has been edited after this has been retweeted” to make sure that readers are aware of the changes since then. There are possibly other ways to deal with edits. I’m not saying “edit” is a good idea; that’s to decide by dedicated Twitter users.
  • Great comment, thanks for reading.
  • Im not a Twitter user but just allow Free Speech & there would be no worries about this topic.
  • Great idea! So you’re saying I should be free to publish your name, photograph, Social Security number, bank account information, and home address for the whole world to see? Are you saying I should be free to say that you are an evil person and you do horrific crimes to underage children? Are you saying I should be allowed to advertise my new pills as the miracle cure for cancer, even though all they contain is sugar? It all sounds good in theory until you, you know, think about it for a second.
  • I have no problem with editing being a shortcut for deleting and reposting. The current process for deleting and reposting just to fix a typo is very cumbersome. I see no reason that tweets (or replies, or likes, or retweets) need to be set in stone, or for preventing people from changing their mind about a tweet or anything else. I note that iMore has an edit feature for comments, and it's a good thing!
  • Let’s say I send out a tweet that says, “All guns should be banned!” And then you retweet what I wrote and you say, “I totally agree with this guy!” And then I change my tweet to say, “No guns should ever be banned!” Do you understand now?