The ‘should Twitter have an edit button’ debate is on again

With racist abuse and fake news all over the platform, an edit function for our tweets is the last thing we need

Having denied the claim that they were testing an “edit” function back in July, Twitter has sparked hopes of editable tweets once again, with a cryptic reply to make-up vlogger Jeffree Star.

The social media and beauty mogul took to Twitter yesterday to request the app update by writing: “Dear Twitter, we need an edit button on our tweets. - Sincerely, everyone.” In response, the company replied saying that the request had been noted.

Users have been calling for an edit button for years, but they’ve had little luck. Kim Kardashian even invited Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey (a man who continues to keep Trump’s account live despite the fact his tweets could start a war), to Kanye’s birthday party so that she could lobby for an edit button.

It’s not hard to guess why someone with Star’s history of ill-thought out racist posts online would want an edit function. He’s posted videos on MySpace in the past where he joked about throwing battery acid on a black woman’s face, saying: “Well maybe if she wasn't wearing the wrong foundation colour, I wouldn't have HAD to splash no battery acid to lighten her skin tone girl.” In another post, he could be heard calling someone a “nigger bitch”. This month, he’s found himself in the middle of a very public feud with a black make-up blogger named Jackie Aina, who he called a “gorilla” over text message. That this kind of abuse persists online is perhaps the most major reason as to why someone should not have the power to edit their posts.

An edit button might put an end to the recent trend of trials by timeline, in which Twitter sleuths have dug up old tweets with the intent of damaging the public image of a number of on-the-rise stars – such scandals have recently hit Maya Jama, Stormzy, and Stefflon Don. Brother Nature is the most recently “cancelled” influencer, after receiving major backlash for old bigoted tweets of his that were resurfaced.

Although this growing milkshake duck trend is exhausting, though, it doesn’t mean we need an “edit” function – there’s something to be said for how such a function would impact the reliability of what you see on the platform. In the context of an online platform that’s already overrun with fake news, being able to edit a popular tweet after it has gone viral would make it even easier to spread disinformation on unwitting users.

So, we have a few options here: think before we tweet, or maybe – just maybe – focus on the rise of democracy-threatening Russian bots or racist and sexist abuse on the site instead.