Mark Zuckerberg, deleted Facebook Messenger conversations and an “Unsend” controversy

Facebook has reportedly deleted messages CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives have sent to people on Facebook Messenger.

TechCrunch has obtained an email receipt of messages sent by Zuckerberg to colleagues and other people that have disappeared off the Messenger system. A number of conversations with Zuckerberg now only contain the recipient’s messages. Anonymous sources say that some of his messages remain while others have disappeared.

Zuckerberg has sent quite a few embarrassing messages while he was still a student at Harvard University as a Business Insider expose showed in 2010. While he confirmed and regretted that he had sent those messages, the scrubbing that he and others in the C-suite have access to serve little with regards to the social media platform’s current reputation: a data mine fit for advertisers and exploiters.

Facebook released a statement saying:

After Sony Pictures’ emails were hacked in 2014 we made a number of changes to protect our executives’ communications. These included limiting the retention period for Mark’s messages in Messenger. We did so in full compliance with our legal obligations to preserve messages.

The fact that this was done without notice to recipients or the public, though, has privacy advocates worried. Since making that statement, the company now says that it will roll out a so-called “unsend feature” to all Facebook users over the next several months. The company also pledged that it will not purge any of Zuckerberg’s messages until after the feature rolls out.

A company spokesperson apologized for not making “Unsend” available at an earlier date:

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. 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 feature is said to basically run much like how timed messages work in the encrypted “Secret” version of Facebook Messenger app where messages disappear after the message has been seen and a set length of time has elapsed. However, as Zuckerberg’s deleted messages date back several years beyond the existence of this feature, it is more likely that Facebook exercised special privileges to remove the conversations.

Zuckerberg is to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 10 and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.