After all the "misinformation flying around" social media that ended up as a part of the official news record during last week's quick moving hunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, it would make a lot of sense for Twitter to implement a button that lets you edit tweets. Even President Obama said as much: "In this age of instant reporting and tweets and blogs," he said Friday after the capture of Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, "there's a temptation to latch on to any bit of information, sometimes to jump to conclusions." So wouldn't it make sense to be able to jump back, correct the record, and get false information out of Internet circulation? Well, yes, but it's unlikely Twitter would make such a move, according to two former Twitter developers and three social media developers who spoke with The Atlantic Wire Tuesday.
The two most damning falsehoods of the Boston frenzy—the unapologetic New York Post cover and the misbegotten outing of a 22-year-old missing Brown student—left many real-time enablers regretful, including many powerful Twitter users. Perhaps the most proactive among them is Wired's Mat Honan, whose admittedly offending tweet is pictured above at right and who is openly advocating for an Edit button today, even offering a specific solution:
So here’s one way it could work using Twitter’s metadata. Twitter could add a function, similar to a retweet or favorite, that let you edit and correct a tweet after it had been posted. Those tweets then show up in a timeline as having been corrected–again, they could be flagged like favorites or retweets. Click on a tweet marked as edited, and it uses Twitter’s Cards function (the same system that lets tweets embed images, videos, and text) to show the original.
Honan also suggests that Twitter give the original author the option of notifying everyone who retweeted the offending tweeter's misinformation of the correction, which they could then choose to republish at the top of their timelines, if they so chose. He's not the first to call on Twitter to build in corrective functionality, but developers who actually know how to build Twitter say it's both technically and practically impossible. "No, I can't imagine that they'd implement that in the foreseeable future," Blaine Cook, a former lead developer at Twitter, told us this afternoon. Twitter doesn't have "anything to share on this" mountain of dev work, a company spokesperson told The Wire, but it would be an uphill—and perhaps unnecessarily complex—climb. Here's how: