Why social networks should not allow editing of published posts

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

The debate rages on: Twitter should allow people to edit their tweets. In theory, that’s a good thing and other networks, like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, do allow editing of published posts.

In reality, from a transparency perspective, I’m not so sure that it should be allowed.

Sure, minor typos should be fixed and when that can be done easily, that’s a good thing for the content creator. But it’s not always a good thing for the audience.

Let’s take my pinned tweet for an example, announcing that I joined a new company as their chief content officer:

Now that post isn’t super controversial and I’m not sure what could change. But almost 10,000 people saw it, according to Twitter Analytics. 75 engaged with it – other than reading it. Reading is engagement too.

Now, wouldn’t it be slightly misleading when I change it after those people saw it, or shared it or liked it? It sure feel that way.

What are the ethical rules when somebody shared something that you then changed. Facebook now has some false news warnings. And I’ve written about corrections online before.

Minor typos are one things, but what if I change the substance of a post after publishing and after a bunch of people have seen it?

It can turn out to be not cool.

Instant message services are in a similar boat and prompted me to think about this.

  • I sent a message
  • Other person reads it
  • I catch a mistake and change it
  • But they don’t read it again – why would they, right?

And that’s the problem. Some edits don’t matter like typos to that relationship. But some other changes do.

Let’s say I post about red lollipops and you like and acknowledge my post.

Then I change it to some crazy and maybe even offensive post that you don’t agree with. And you are still liking it. And maybe are still sharing it? It can be a problem – even though I try not to be offensive, but the tongue in cheek game can be strong.

Of course, Facebook has the edit history function. So does Microsoft Teams – a Slack like instant messaging system. On Facebook, I believe you can see what was changed. On Teams, you cannot – though you can see that something was changed. You just can’t tell what.

Of course, the other person could add a note: Edited for clarity. Or something like that. But that doesn’t mean others will see that either.

Who goes back to old messages? I rarely do. When I do, I’m sometimes surprised what I missed on the first read. Slow down, buddy! LOL. Usually, something has to prompt me to go back, like somebody asking me a question about the exchange.

It’s okay to send a follow up message to explain and expand. And sometimes it’s okay to go talk to people. That’s not always feasible on social media, obviously, but on instant messages a meeting can beat 99 messengers that are circling around misunderstandings.

Of course, the best way is to not make mistakes of any kind on the first publish. But they do happen. Even to the people who scream the loudest when others make mistakes.

I guess the best way would be to just make follow up easy and tie it to the original. An idea, dear social network owners.

I’m sure this area will evolve, but transparency matters. The more transparent the display can be the better. And seriously, it’s okay to make mistakes and explain and fix them later.

Run the next content play and be transparent about the last one.