Notifying users that a tweet has been edited will be essential to minimizing the possibility for abuse, Komaitis pointed out, using the example of someone tweeting a picture of a cute dog to generate positive responses and then swapping it for a picture of Hitler.
“We know these situations can happen, and it’s not because of Twitter or the internet, but because that’s how society currently functions,” he said, adding that the potential benefits of an edit button are unlikely to outweigh the possibilities for abuse.
“Twitter needs to come up with as many safeguards as possible in order to ensure that it is purely for small mistakes, or a regrettable choice of words, rather than completely changing the way the conversations are taking place.”
By limiting the feature to paying subscribers at least for now, Twitter could dramatically shrink, although not fully eradicate, the pool of users who are likely to use it maliciously.
But it also raises questions over whether an edited tweet will count as a real tweet. This could warp the number of daily active users. And it’s also debatable whether using paying subscribers to test the feature is really equivalent to handing it over to the platform’s most toxic user base.
Ultimately, the popularity of the idea of an edit button speaks to our perfectionism, says Charles Arthur, author of Social Warming: How Social Media Polarizes Us All.
“We seem bizarrely desirous of this ability to edit our lives—of using technologies to roll back time, which points to a sort of societal anxiety of ‘Oh no, did I say the wrong thing?’” he says.
“We don’t have the confidence in what we’ve said, even if we’ve got it a bit wrong. The trouble is, anything that can be used maliciously will be used maliciously, and Twitter is the absolute hotbed of people doing malicious things.”
Update: a response from a Twitter spokesperson has been added.