While Twitter can be an invaluable news source, it’s also a cesspool of misinformation – just take a look at the recent hacking of The Associated Press’s official account as an example. We’ve recently covered how you can be a proper netizen on Twitter; if there was one more thing to add to this list, it would be this: Think before you retweet, because once it’s out there, there’s no way of correcting your post other than deleting it.
Facebook currently doesn’t have a way to edit already-posted status updates (that sometimes includes re-posted links), but at least is has the edit function activated for comments and photo captions so you can appropriately correct any bits of data once you become aware of mistakes. Twitter, on the other hand, does not have any sort of edit function built in, and with the super-fast pace of information dissemination on the micro-blogging site, it would be difficult to keep track of what needs correcting; once the retweet train leaves the station and goes the distance, it’s nearly impossible to stop the flow of unreliable and erroneous facts. Until Twitter comes up with its own solution to vanquish this terrible misinformation problem, it’s up to us to be diligent in posting tweets that are verifiable. Of course, this isn’t an entirely reliable system, but there’s a new app called Retwact that may be able to help.
Retwact (a combination of retweet and retract) is a sideline project built by Stonly Baptiste, a software developer at independenceIT. Think of it as Twitter damage control: After granting the tool account access, it lists your five most recent tweets that have been retweeted by others and you can choose any to retract. You can publish the correction notice and include a personalized apology and it will be sent to all your Twitter followers. The notice includes a link that will take you to a before-and-after tweet comparison, showing your older tweet with the newly corrected one.
Baptiste’s idea gained quick recognition on popular social news forum Hacker News, driving him to toil over this side project for 2 days straight, venturing into assets he has not worked with before.
Retwact is definitely a bare-bones app with a few limitations. The service might not work as well for super-active Twitter users – it can only access and repair tweets posted within minutes as opposed to hours. It also only works on tweets posted through the Retweet button and passes over manual ones. Retwact supposedly also contacts your retweeters who’ve passed along your flawed tweet for you through @Retwact, but their Twitter handle is currently suspended, as Baptiste explains to National Journal:
The Twitter TOS is clear about not sending similar messages to too many people, and one of retwact’s features — direct tweeting to the first 100 retweeters — violates that. Once this thing hit the overnight press and other countries tested it out, the account went down. There is an @retwact2 up now to keep the app running but it’s not direct tweeting until I hear back from Twitter about the suspended account. I think the Retwaction landing page and the option to delete the original retweet while retaining the original message should be enough to offer value to users.
Baptiste reportedly intends to develop his product further by adding a function for deleting sham tweets from one’s Twitter timeline while also retaining the correction in Retwact’s database, so proof of correction is still available, but wrong information will cease to be passed around. He also hopes that Twitter would consider acquiring his project in the future.