Whatever you post is considered to be 'published' - even with an edit button.
The recent suggestion to introduce an edit button on Twitter received enormous support from its users in a poll posted by South African-born businessman Elon Musk.
Musk's poll – a response to a Twitter April Fool’s post – had over 4 million votes by the time it closed on Tuesday (5 April), with a split of 74% for "yes" and 26% for "no."
The option to edit posts after publishing them has been a longstanding debate on Twitter and would allow users to fix errors on published tweets or correct misstatements on any viral posts.
"While it may be welcomed, even with an edit button, the legal consequences of publishing on social media platforms remain," says Chanique Rautenbach, senior associate at Barnard Incorporated Attorneys.
Irrespective of whether a post can be edited retrospectively, whatever statement you have posted is considered to be 'published', she said.
Publishing defamatory, confidential or misleading statements on social media could either land you in court facing a delictual lawsuit where you can face paying hefty damages, or you could even face a criminal lawsuit and, if convicted, earn yourself a criminal record. Injuring the dignity of another is a criminal offence.
"Social media platforms have policies to which users must conform when publishing a post. Twitter's policy specifically states that one may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. This means that Twitter can also institute sanctions against you."
Therefore, it is important that users should remain cautious when publishing on Twitter, even if an option to edit retrospectively is added as functionality in future, said Rautenbach.