Facebook has finally made good on its promise to let users unsend chats after TechCrunch discovered Mark Zuckerberg had secretly retracted some of his Facebook Messages from recipients. Today Facebook Messenger globally rolls out “Remove for everyone” to help you pull back typos, poor choices, embarrassing thoughts or any other message.
For up to 10 minutes after sending a Facebook Message, the sender can tap on it and they’ll find the delete button has been replaced by “Remove for you,” but there’s now also a “Remove for everyone” option that pulls the message from recipients’ inboxes. They’ll see an alert that you removed a message in its place, and can still flag the message to Facebook, which will retain the content briefly to see if it’s reported. The feature could make people more comfortable having honest conversations or using Messenger for flirting since they can second-guess what they send, but it won’t let people change ancient history.
The company abused its power by altering the history of Zuckerberg’s Facebook’s messages in a way that email or other communication mediums wouldn’t allow. Yet Facebook refused to say if it will now resume removing executives’ messages from recipients even long after they’re delivered after telling TechCrunch in April that “until this feature is ready, we will no longer be deleting any executives’ messages.”
For a quick recap, here’s how Facebook got to Unsend:
-Facebook Messenger never had an Unsend option, except in its encrypted Secret messaging product where you can set an expiration timer on chats, or in Instagram Direct.
-In April 2018, TechCrunch reported that some of Mark Zuckerberg’s messages had been removed from the inboxes of recipients, including non-employees. There was no trace of the chats in the message thread, leaving his conversation partners looking like they were talking to themselves, but email receipts proved the messages had been sent but later disappeared.
-Facebook claimed this was partly because it was “limiting the retention period for Mark’s messages” for security purposes in the wake of the Sony Pictures hack, yet it never explained why only some messages to some people had been removed.
-The next morning, Facebook changed its tune and announced it’d build an Unsend button for everyone, providing this statement: “We have discussed this feature several times . . . 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.”
-Six months later in October 2018, Facebook still hadn’t launched Unsend, but then TechCrunch found Facebook had been prototyping the feature.
-In November, Facebook started to roll out the feature with the current “Remove for everyone” design and 10-minute limit.
-Now every iOS and Messenger user globally will get the Unsend feature.
So will Facebook start retracting executives’ messages again? It’d only say that the new feature would be available to both users and employees. But in Zuckerberg’s case, messages from years ago were removed in a way users still aren’t allowed to. Remove for everyone could make messaging on Facebook a little less anxiety-inducing. But it shouldn’t have taken Facebook being caught stealing from the inboxes of its users to get it built.