Unsend is real! Mark Zuckerberg got caught nixing his Messenger sends, and soon Facebook will let you do it too

By Dan Calabrese

I always figured “unsend” was a myth, like the Loch Ness Monster.

Come on . . . once you’ve sent someone a message and it’s been downloaded to their computer or device, you can’t unsend it. You can’t make it disappear from their inbox.

Unless, of course, you own their inbox. And when you’re using Facebook Messenger, Mark Zuckerberg owns your inbox. So theoretically, he should be able to develop a method by which someone – not necessarily the sender, but someone – could make a message in your Messenger inbox disappear.

Well, it turns out Zuckerberg has had this tool for quite some time, and he’s been known to use it. And now that this is getting out, Facebook has decided to go ahead and let the rest of us use it too:

Facebook Inc. is planning to introduce a feature letting users of its Messenger app retract messages after a report that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, used an early version of the feature without telling anyone.

Techcrunch reported late Thursday that multiple people saw Messenger missives from Zuckerberg disappear. Facebook said the feature was developed after the Sony Corp. data hack in 2014, which exposed a trove of sensitive internal communications. So Facebook created a capability that let executives expunge their app messages after a period of time.

“We will now be making a broader delete message feature available. This may take some time,” a Facebook spokeswoman wrote in an email on Friday. “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.”

Two thoughts on this:

  1. I’m really not sure how much value there is to this. Most people see their Messenger messages on their phones or devices as soon as they’re received, so if you send something and then regret it, you’re only going to call attention to your sloppiness as people realize something they got from you has mysteriously vanished.
  2. I’ve not really joined in the general outrage people are spewing toward Facebook these days for the simple reason that it’s their platform and they can do what they want with it. Facebook is not a public utility, and I don’t want them regulated like one. I get the impression they wouldn’t mind because such regulations tend to serve as entry barriers to competitors. But Zuckerberg owns Facebook and he doesn’t have to give us dislike buttons or unsend buttons or anything else if he doesn’t want to. And if he wants to invent one and then be the only one to use it, it’s his platform. It’s not an affront to me or you if he does.

Now, having said all that, I’m a little surprised Zuckerberg was sending people messages and then changing his mind and pulling them back. He comes off as a very careful guy who never says anything he hasn’t carefully thought through. Maybe this is actually a product of his extreme caution. Maybe even after he goes through that whole process, he still has the jitters about sharing any meaningful thoughts on anything, and he sends, then panics, then unsends.

His congressional testimony should be quite a show.

At any rate, if you send someone a message on FB Messenger and then decide you want to unsend it, good luck that the person didn’t already read it, screenshot it, copy it or otherwise preserve it for posterity. And you can bet that if you send anything questionable enough that you’d think about unsending it, people will quickly do just that while they can.

I don’t imagine the readers of this site need to be told that especially includes messages involving sexual content, racist nonsense or anything of that nature. So I won’t tell you. You surely already know.

Is it too late to unsend this column?

Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!