Hot Twitter Topic: Revising Tweets

If you followed the Boston Marathon news last week on Twitter, you likely read lots of false information.

Many users tweeted the name of one “suspect” who wasn’t and there were endless “this is happening now!” assertions about events that (again) weren’t, from folks listening to scanners.

As a result, there a few red faces this week, embarrassed they tweeted such things – and kind of angry, it seems, at Twitter.

Mat Honan at Wired made the case for there being some way to edit tweets after they’ve been tweeted:

Twitter shouldn’t have to make sure everything crossing its servers is factual or true, but it is in Twitter’s interest to themselves to give us the tools to clean things up. Otherwise it risks becoming a cesspool of untruths and rumors. Twitter needs a way to reel bad information back in. It needs a way to let us flag things that we’ve said that turn out to be wrong. Twitter needs an edit button, a correction process.

Sure, you can post another tweet as a correction, but there’s no way all the same people will see this new tweet. Once it’s out there, the damage is done.

So would an edit option help? No. According to Forbes, it would be a disaster. An edit option would “encourage sloppiness, add to the confusion and discourage accountability.” All very real concerns, though we can’t imagine how anything could add to the confused flurry that happens during any newsworthy event on Twitter.

But if sending a new tweet doesn’t work and editing it won’t work – what about deleting the tweet? That’s not a great idea either, because although it will prevent those linking to it from spreading it any further, that makes you look sneaky and unreliable, of course. And who wants THAT?

So we come back full circle to Honan’s suggestion, because it really isn’t as controversial as it seems. Google+ has an editing option – and Facebook let’s you edit comments now too. Both indicate the item has been “edited” and a tweet could do the same. Easy peasy, right? Maybe not.

The hardest part would be when an edited tweet has been retweeted. Would it change the retweet too? Maybe it shouldn’t! That leaves the accountability (and a record of what actually happened). If anything, this would likely discourage sloppiness instead of encouraging it.

But it’s all a moot point really as “editing tweets” seems (on the surface) kind of complicated and, as Twitter is all about simplicity.

So what can you do then? Nothing, sorry. You’ll just need to tweet responsibly and expect to take your lumps when you don’t. Or . . . don’t tweet?

(Image from Shutterstock)

@MaryCLong Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.
Publish date: April 24, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT