Facebook users will soon get the ability to “unsend” messages, hours after learning that Mark Zuckerberg and other top executives have secretly used such a feature.
Yesterday, TechCrunch reported that Facebook had apparently given executives the ability to set a “retention period” for messages sent using Facebook Messenger. This allowed their messages to seemingly disappear from the recipient’s inbox after a certain period of time.
Three sources told TechCrunch that after searching their inbox for messages Zuckerberg had sent them on Facebook Messenger, they found that Zuckerberg’s original message to them had disappeared. Their responses to him, however, were left intact. At least one of these messages dates back to 2010.
A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch that the changes were made after the emails of executives at Sony Pictures were hacked in 2014. However, Facebook had not previously revealed that the messages were “unsent” or that the company even gave its executives such an option.
Today, Facebook told TechCrunch that the company is now working on rolling out an unsend feature to all users in the next several months.
A Facebook spokesperson provided VentureBeat with a statement that read, “we have discussed this feature several times. And people using our secret message feature in the encrypted version of Messenger have the ability to set a timer — and have their messages automatically deleted. We will now be making a broader ‘delete message’ feature available. 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.”
Facebook did not respond to an inquiry about whether the company planed to restore any messages from Zuckerberg and top executives that had previously been retracted.
It’s not clear yet if the recipient will get a notification if the sender deletes a sent message. Facebook’s WhatsApp and Instagram both have unsend features, but only WhatsApp’s feature notifies a recipient that the message has been deleted. The retention period feature utilized by executives reportedly did not give recipients a notification when a message disappeared from their inbox.
At the time of publication, Facebook’s Help Center still states that messages can’t be unsent or removed from a person’s inbox.
Updated at 9:58 a.m. with a statement from Facebook.