TORONTO — Canadians will be among the first to access an edit button Twitter is launching this month.
The feature announced Wednesday will become available to Canadian subscribers of Twitter Blue, the company's paid subscription service that has only launched in Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, for testing as early as late September.
The feature will let subscribers edit their tweets, add or remove tags and reorder attached media "a few times" within 30 minutes of publishing. Tweets will be marked with an icon and label noting they have been modified and users will have access to a time-stamped history of the changes.
The company framed the edit button — its "most requested feature to date" — as a way of reducing the frustration that comes with having to delete a tweet or leave a typo on display because there is currently no way to alter tweets.
"We’re hoping that, with the availability of edit tweet, tweeting will feel more approachable and less stressful," says a Twitter blog post about the change.
The rollout of the long-awaited tool comes as Canada is looking to regulate tech companies and pressure is mounting to tamp down on online harassment.
"But if we're looking for a tool that will make Twitter more productive and welcoming and a healthy place, this isn't it," said Natasha Tusikov, an assistant professor of social science at York University.
"If Twitter hopes that an edit tool will improve public discourse and make it a safer, more productive, more engaging public premise, that's absolutely not going to happen. This doesn't touch any of the structural problems that Twitter has."
Among its biggest issues are trolling, doxing and harassment that have run rampant on the platform and often go undealt with by Twitter and law enforcement, Tusikov said.
Doxing is when someone publishes online personal details, such as home addresses, as a means of intimidation.
Tusikov worries that people with malicious intentions might post something and then change it to something else that's derogatory or hateful as it starts to go viral.
A user who has already liked or retweeted the original post might not be aware of the changes unless they revisit the post, but will be connected to it.
Richard Lachman, a digital media professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, said the onus will also be on people to notice how the tweet has been altered and humanity doesn't have a great track record with paying close attention to the details of posts.
"The internet has not had a history of people reading things very closely," he said.
"It has a history of just seeing what's right there, not the small font notice that says this has been edited."
The iteration of the edit button Twitter Blue subscribers get to test might not be the one that is ultimately rolled out to all users.
The test will be localized to a single country at first, but tweaked and expanded as Twitter learns and observes how people use the feature because the company says "you can never be too careful."
While Twitter has faced edit buttons requests, even from high-profile users like Kim Kardashian, who once cornered co-founder Jack Dorsey at Kanye West's birthday to ask for the tool, it seemed unlikely to roll out the feature.
The company tweeted, “you don’t need an edit button, you just need to forgive yourself" in June 2021, but in April this year conceded an edit button has been in the works since last year.
Its launch has arrived as Twitter is locked in a legal battle with tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, who was due to buy the social media company for US$44 billion. He has since backed away from the deal, claiming Twitter has more bots than it disclosed, but Twitter is suing Musk to force the sale to go through.
Musk polled his followers about whether they'd like an edit button earlier this year, with 73.6 per cent saying they would be in favour of the change.
It's hard to know why Twitter chose this moment to release the edit button and whether Musk had anything to do with the decision, but the failed deal could be "pushing them to be much more serious about their revenue growth," Lachman said.
He applauded the company for using a "slow and deliberate" approach to the launch, but wished the company was being more transparent about its rationale because Dorsey, who departed his Twitter CEO role last year, long railed against the edit feature.
"It is a little disingenuous to be so strongly against something and then reverse without...a reasoning for why this shift is happening," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2022.
Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press