DecryptedTech

Friday12 August 2022

Twitter Moving to Allow Manipulation of Embedded Tweets on 3rd Party Websites


Reading time is around minutes.

Twitter has been in the new a lot over the last few years. From deleting accounts of people and groups for very flimsy reasons to censoring posts that contain factual, but non-popular information. It seems that they just cannot help themselves when it comes to abusing community standards. The practice has even accelerated after Jack Dorsey left the company as CEO. The seemingly one-sided application of community standards has led to much criticism of the platform. The level of disappointment even led to Elon Musk buying 9.2% of the company and gaining a seat on the board of directors (not that this will accomplish much).

Now Twitter is making some additional changes to how tweets work that could impact 3rd party sites that embed tweets as part of their content. The new option has been touted to allow people to edit tweets after posting which on the surface is not a bad thing. I am sure many people have posted a tweet with a typo or two and wanted to simply edit the tweet, but instead had to delete and re-port. Having an edit option would seem to be a good thing. However, the new feature will also extend beyond just twitter and into any site that has used the share feature to embed the tweet.

The new functionality does not just allow for editing of an existing tweet on Twitter and anywhere it is embedded, it also allows for the removal of the tweet. The ability to remove content from other websites is facilitated by the JavaScript used to embed the tweet. Twitter feels this is all ok and is just extending the posting users right to control their content. Others have seen this as a bit of an abuse and in contrast to Twitter’s stance on monitoring content on their platform. Some have even questioned the timing of the new feature just before an election cycle. Others support Twitter’s move and say that Twitter can do what they want with their content as they are a private company.

The reality of it is between the two extreme sides. Twitter is indeed a private company, but it is also one that has fought t protect themselves from liability around user posted content. They have often said they do not own the content and only provide a forum for discourse. They even fought efforts to reveal user information during several high-profile events. Even now the edit and removal option is being pushed as a way for users to control their content and not Twitter wanting to control it. The messaging seems to be at odd with the Twitter’s push for more aggressive moderation standards and the increased frequency of not just blocked tweets, but complete account removals.

There is good news though, even if Twitter continues with their plan to allow embedded tweets to be removed if a user deletes them, you can always get a screen grab of the tweet for the record. While this means there is sort of a historical record of the tweet, it does leave things open for the original poster to deny they ever made the tweet in question. Twitter, like Facebook and Google and other tech companies have gotten a bit drunk on the power they have and hide behind statements that seem to be well intended. The idea of stopping bullying, illegal activity, and hurtful speech is a laudable one. It becomes a bad thing when the policies are applied unevenly and only in certain contexts. When that happens, it appears much more ominous and big brother like.

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