Facebook will introduce an “unsend” option, after backlash about Zuckerberg’s disappearing messages

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Facebook will introduce an “unsend” button in Messenger, which would let a user erase an unwanted message from their recipient’s inbox, as well as their own, TechCrunch reported April 6. The development immediately follows backlash against the company that it deleted messages its CEO Mark Zuckerberg sent in the past to people with whom he was communicating on Messenger.

TechCrunch wrote yesterday that several sources said that Zuckerberg’s old messages to them disappeared from their inboxes. Facebook confirmed the retractions, claiming it was done for the company’s security, following the Sony email hack in 2014. But Facebook informed neither the recipients nor the public that it was taking these steps.

There has been no official announcement about the new delete feature, and there’s a sense that Facebook is reacting to crisis after crisis in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal with slap-dash measures on an ad-hoc basis. The company says the “unsend” option has been planned for a while, but the timing of the development brings that into question.

“We have [internally] discussed this feature several times,” the company said in a statement sent to Quartz. It already has a similar function in Messenger’s secret message feature, where messages automatically delete with on a timer that users can set, the company said. Facebook added that this is how the feature functioned for its executives on Messenger, and that it could be how it will operate for the broader public. “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”.

The company would not disclose any further details about the feature to Quartz. And introducing a way to delete messages raises a number of questions. For example, would all traces of the deleted message disappear, allowing users to send abusive messages that they could simply “unsend” later? Facebook said it would ensure the new feature would comply with the law.