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Twitter testing new features aimed at promoting 'healthy' conversations while users keep asking, 'Why can't I edit my tweet?'

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Social media giant is asking users to take part in beta testing — but remain mum on rolling out an 'edit' function

PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

Twitter announced this week that it will soon allow a few thousand users to test out new features aimed at promoting "healthy" conversations on the social media platform. Volunteers will give feedback on functions like status indicators that show whether a user is online, and "icebreaker" posts encouraging feedback on certain topics.

But one function seemed to be missing from the testing grounds, as the Twitter-verse continues to ask: "Why can't we edit our posts?"

What are the details?

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Tuesday, Twitter's director of product management, Sara Haider, explained that the company is developing ways to making conversation threads easier to follow with indentations and highlighting functions. Instead of trying out the features behind closed doors, the company is asking users to take part in beta testing and provide feedback before expanding new functions platform-wide.

"The investments and thinking we do around health permeate into all of our product decision-making and how we think about what products we are building," Haider told the audience.

Yet, Engadget reported that before Haider left the stage, she was asked to address "those editable tweets people keep asking about," but she said she had nothing to say about that possibility right now.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was dogged by similar questions when promoting the new conversation features Tuesday, with several of his followers asking why the company won't just add an "edit option."

Yeah, what's the deal?

Twitter users have been begging for the ability to edit their own tweets for years, usually to simply fix a typo. But the company has been resistant to offer the function over valid concerns: Users could alter the meaning of tweets after they've been circulated, which distorts not only the public record, but compromises the context of published responsive commentary via Twitter, the media, or other arenas.

Yet, as Slate's Will Oremus argued in 2016, the only alternative option is to delete a tweet altogether — which (with the exception of saved screenshots) results in the same problems of stripping replies or retweets of their context, and renders news stories embedding such messages "retroactively confusing or even nonsensical."

Oremus pointed out that there are ways Twitter could indicate whether a tweet had been edited, and could even show views of "both the original and edited version."

As experts and users alike continue the call for an editing function, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey conceded to an audience in November that the company has been looking into how such a feature could be implemented in the "right way," according to Social Report.

So, you're saying there's a chance?

During a talk at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, Dorsey said:

There's a bunch of things we could do to show a changelog and show how a tweet has been changed and we're looking at all this stuff but ultimately we need to make sure we're solving a real problem and solving a use case that people are seeing as friction within the service making that easy for people to do. We've been considering edit for quite some time but we have to do it the right way.

Social Report indicated that if the edit function were to be implemented, it would likely be heavily restricted. Users could expect a limit on the amount of time when a tweet can be edited after publishing (so that historic tweets could not be altered), and a limit to the number of times a single post can be edited.

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