Donald Trump Has Me Rethinking My Stance On Editing Tweets On Twitter

This is why we can't have nice things.

By Jessie Peterson Jan 3, 2017
via Rob Beschizza / Boing Boing
via Rob Beschizza / Boing Boing

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has been “thinking a lot” about rolling out a live-editing feature on Twitter that would allow users to make changes to tweets without having to delete them. That is a profoundly terrible and potentially dangerous idea.

Don’t get me wrong, the ability to fix typos has been a long overlooked feature that should have been integrated into the social network's user interface from day one, but it wasn't. The world is a different place than it was 10 years ago when Twitter was launched as a microblogging service by Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams. Since then, the platform has grown significantly. In 2013, it was described as “the SMS of the internet," and in October 2016, Twitter announced it had reached 317 million monthly active users. On election day, more 40 million election-related posts were sent on Twitter. Although the company is struggling to grow its user base as fast as stockholders would like, it has become a place for breaking news (and many jokes). This is where we should get worried.

We elected Donald Trump, a former reality TV star, who decided he will be executive producing America in his image by utilizing techniques used by demagogues and autocrats in order to erode the freedom of the independent press. Trump has berated the media, singled out news outlets whose coverage he didn't approve of, condemned satire, and said he'll make it easier to sue news organizations. When Trump feels like sidestepping reporters’ questions, Twitter is there so he can communicate directly to his 18.5 million followers. (Obama tweets from @POTUS, with 12.9 million followers).

This is frightening. Trump has a record of lying, a thin grasp of the facts, and an overall willingness to spread false information from unreliable sources. PolitiFact’s scorecard on our president-elect has Trump with a 4% rating on true statements. This is not a person that I trust to tweet. And I trust the president-elect must less with the power to go back and edit his tweets, when he has been known to deny having said things when it is convenient for him. Trump shouldn’t be allowed to have the tools to rewrite his past, especially when democracy hangs in the balance. Twitter should instead be used for what it’s always been good for: complaining about your roommates, settling disputes with customer service representatives, and occasionally flirting with both celebrities and the Seamless Twitter account.

Seth Meyers, a talk show host and comedian, has taken the charge of debunking Trump's Trumpisms very seriously in his new segment "A Closer Look." It's funny, but it's unclear how much railing against Trump's blunders (obvious to some) will matter to his supporters. Still, a Late Night writer recently told Vulture, “We are entering truly uncharted waters in modern American politics, but one thing is clear: Misinformation and propaganda are going to continue to proliferate. That means we all need to be on guard against it.”

It’s true. If we’re getting into uncharted waters, that doesn't mean we need to hand Donald Trump a paddle. Now excuse me, while I delete and rewrite a hilarious observation I just made on Twitter about twenty times. Sorry about the typos!