After TechCrunch reported that Facebook has been quietly deleting messages CEO Mark Zuckerberg has sent via Messenger, the company is now saying that the ability to retract messages will soon be available to all Messenger users. According to TechCrunch, an “unsend” feature is coming in the next few months, though it provided no further details on how this new function works. Messenger currently offers a Secret Conversation mode where users can set a timer on when messages will self-destruct, but all parties within that conversation are notified when their thread will expire.
“We have discussed this feature several time,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge in a statement. “We will now be making a broader delete message feature available. This may take some time. And until this feature is ready, we will no longer be deleting any executives’ messages. We should have done this sooner — and we’re sorry that we did not.”
“until this feature is ready, we will no longer be deleting any executives’ messages”
Facebook has implemented an unsend feature in some capacities with its other products before. WhatsApp has offered an unsend feature since last year, which lets users revoke a message if they do so within a short period of time after sending. The message does not simply disappear, however; the note “this message was deleted” sits in place of the text, video, or photo. Instagram also has an unsend feature that simply makes the message go away as if nothing happened (unless, of course, the recipient has already seen the message or push notification). Users simply hold the message they want to delete and select “unsend” to clear it from history. The recipient in this case is not notified when messages have been revoked.
Today’s news comes just hours after reports that old Facebook messages from Zuckerberg had disappeared from other users’ inboxes and threads. While the company’s terms of service does not specify policies around deleting messages that do not violate community standards, the act has been criticized as a potential breach of trust, particularly at a time when Facebook is experiencing a massive fallout after the Cambridge Analytica data mishandling scandal and is under multiple investigations.
Update April 6th 1:33 PM ET: This article has been updated with Facebook’s statement.