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You still can’t edit your tweets, but you may soon be able to “clarify” them

“That’s not what I meant!”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey onstage at an event.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
David Becker / Getty Images

Twitter doesn’t have an “edit” button, which means if you say something stupid or inaccurate or that gets taken out of context, you’re either stuck with that tweet forever or you have to delete the tweet entirely.

Well, that could change.

CEO Jack Dorsey, who spoke at a February 14 event for Goldman Sachs in San Francisco, said that Twitter is “thinking about” some kind of feature that would let people go back and add clarifications or annotations to old tweets.

“The other thing that we’re seeing more broadly within the culture right now in this particular moment is people quote-unquote ‘being cancelled’ because of past things that they’ve said on Twitter or various other places in social media,” Dorsey explained to the audience on Thursday. “There’s no credible way to kind of go back and clarify or even have a conversation to show the learning and the transition since.”

So Dorsey says that Twitter is thinking about building something to help with that. What might that look like exactly? It sounds as though that hasn’t been decided. Twitter already lets people share a tweet with more context through its retweet feature. But whatever Dorsey has in mind sounds different from that. The idea here is that even if a tweet has already gone viral, the clarification will be added anywhere the original tweet appears.

Here’s how Dorsey described it:

“How do we enable people to quickly go back or to any tweet, whether it be years back or today, and show that original tweet — kind of like a quote retweet, a retweet with comment — and to add some context and some color on what they might have tweeted or what they might have meant. By doing so you might imagine that the original tweet then would not have the sort of engagement around it. Like you wouldn’t be able to retweet the original tweet, for instance. You would just show the clarification, you would be able to retweet the clarification, so it always carries around with it that context. That’s one approach. Not saying that we are going to launch that but those are the sorts of questions we are going to ask.”

Most likely, this feature would make sense for clearing up inaccurate news. A company spokesperson said that if Twitter actually did build it — as Dorsey mentioned, there’s no guarantee this will ever exist — the clarification tool would be tested with journalists and newsmakers. That way, if you tweet something inaccurate and need to clear things up even after your tweet is passed around the internet, you can.

But Dorsey also mentioned how old tweets can ruin people’s careers, and this feature speaks to the idea of internet permanency. Most people know by now that what goes onto the internet is usually there for good, at least in some way, shape, or form. This can be merely embarrassing, but it can also come back to bite people big-time, usually when they don’t realize they said something bad until years later, after it has resurfaced and gone viral.

Comedian Kevin Hart, for example, was going to host the Oscars this year until old tweets surfaced showing that he made homophobic jokes. James Gunn, the director of Guardians of the Galaxy, was fired from making the movie’s third installment because of old tweets where he joked about pedophilia. Pretty much everything President Donald Trump says is contradicted by one or more of his old tweets.

This “clarification” feature could give people a chance to permanently attach some kind of comment or annotation to a tweet. Would that preserve your career if you tweeted something racist or homophobic? Probably not.

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