Sent nudes? Telegram can help you cover your ass

Telegram users can delete private messages without a trace.
Telegram users can delete private messages without a trace.
Image: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih
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Remember that time you accidentally sent your mom a text meant for your partner? Let’s say goodbye to that awkwardness.

Telegram, an encrypted messaging service, recently gave users the ability to delete private messages from their own devices and recipients’ devices at any point in time. Previously, users could only un-send their own messages within a 48-hour window. Pavel Durov, Telegram’s founder, announced the new feature March 24.

The unlimited ability to delete sensitive texts or photos on both ends is clearly useful. It saves a person the embarrassment of tracking down ex-friends or ex-colleagues, and persuading them to delete incriminating content. However, Telegram’s universal deletion feature could also spell trouble in the form of doctored conversations.

Imagine the following exchange:

Original conversation (left) and edited conversation (right).
Original conversation (left) and edited conversation (right).
Image: Telegram Screenshot

In the above conversation, Squidward asks a series of questions—and selectively deletes messages—to make it look like SpongeBob agreed to close the restaurant they work at, the Krusty Krab. Timestamps remain in the edited conversation, but there’s no trace of the deleted messages on either user’s device. In essence, nefarious Telegrammers like Squidward can rewrite history.

Typically, other platforms limit users’ ability to delete messages and disclose when messages have been removed. For example, WhatsApp, a messaging service owned by Facebook, replaces deleted content with filler text stating,“This message was deleted.”

Telegram, though, offers extra-paranoid users one major advantage: The ability to erase all messages and claim a conversation never happened at all.

Not a sliver of evidence.
Not a sliver of evidence.
Image: Telegram screenshot (Desktop)

Ultimately, if you’re worried your messaging partner could manipulate your words, a complete record—deletion notices and all—is to your advantage. But if you want to excise embarrassment or reclaim your innocence, Telegram can help you hide your indiscretions.