Twitter Will Begin Testing a Controversial Edit Button Feature

Subscribers to the premium Twitter Blue will soon be able to test an edit feature, according to Twitter, which says a tweet edit button has for years been its most-requested UI update. Speculation that the feature would be added has run rampant since Elon Musk, a vocal proponent, announced his significant investment in the company. Following news that Musk will join its board, Twitter revealed that it has been working on such a feature since last year and testing will begin in the coming months. However, the feature is somewhat controversial.

Those in favor say it will allow simple grammatical and typographical corrections without having to delete and rewrite tweets, which results in losing likes and comments. Those against argue it could be used to make substantive changes that mislead readers, potentially altering the meaning of a tweet after it has gone viral.

Consensus seems to be that the devil will be in the details, with parameters such as an “edit history,” limitations on the number of characters that can be changed or a time limit within which editing is permitted could potentially safeguard an edit capability.

Editing is already enabled on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. In fact, TikTok appears to be the only popular social media entity that does not allow posts to be edited. The debate is particularly fraught for Twitter, a platform that The Wall Street Journal says “built its reputation as a social-media site with no take-backs.”

Musk, the CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX, was referred to in a separate WSJ article as a “billionaire social-media agitator.” Immediately on announcing his Twitter stake, Musk launched a user poll on edit preferences, receiving 4.4 million responses, with 74 percent favoring the feature.

Musk has not assumed his Twitter board seat yet. An SEC filing says Musk will join “as promptly as practicable” after “customary onboarding procedures.” Twitter’s 11-person board is next scheduled to meet May 25. Invitation to join the board precludes Musk from purchasing more than 14.9 percent of the company’s common stock (a controlling stake) “for so long as Mr. Musk is serving on the Board and for 90 days thereafter,” reports Ars Technica.

Twitter has already begun experimenting with an “unmention” feature that allows users to remove themselves from a conversation. Currently limited to web users only, it includes the option to “leave this conversation” from a tweet’s options, letting users “avoid constant notifications for a chat you never wanted to join,” writes Engadget, which notes that “in its current form, the text for the mention remains — it just doesn’t send an alert.”

The social media platform has also made a permanent global change to improve accessibility by making “alt text” descriptions more prominent by adding a prominent ALT badge to bring up the description when clicked. “Before Thursday’s change, most users didn’t necessarily have access to alt text descriptions unless using screen readers,” reports The Verge. “Twitter first introduced image descriptions in 2016, but it could be hard to find where and how to add them.”

Elon Musk Joins Twitter’s Board, Pitching Ideas Big and Small, The New York Times, 4/4/22
Elon Musk’s Twitter Investment Raises New Regulatory Red Flag, The Wall Street Journal, 4/5/22
Elon Musk Suggests Changes to Twitter, Takes Barbs at Company, The Wall Street Journal, 4/10/22
Musk’s Idea for a Twitter Homeless Shelter Wins Bezos Support, Bloomberg, 4/10/22