Back in April, Mark Zuckerberg got caught deleting old messages he’d sent through Facebook. The tech company was forced to confirm that the CEO was reaching into other people’s inboxes and deleting old messages, but assured us that it was fine because Facebook would be giving the feature to everyone soon. Well, it’s the middle of October, six months later, and we’re still waiting.
Everything about Facebook’s statement at the time felt rushed and panicky. And now we know why. The tech giant clearly never had any intention of releasing the feature to all of its users. The company’s statement in April promised that the feature would be coming but that it “may take some time”.
From 6 April 2018:
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.
It’s time to call bull. It doesn’t take that much time to roll out a feature that you already gave to your top executives. Theoretically, it could be as easy as a flick of a switch.
April admittedly feels like a lifetime ago. Facebook has had so many scandals this year, including the Cambridge Analytica breach that exposed the private data of millions of users and helped win President Trump the 2016 US election.
And that’s to say nothing of the company’s most recent hack, its rampant use as a tool for discrimination based on sex and race, and the United Nations report that found Facebook was complicit in genocide in Myanmar.
The fact that Facebook appears to be lying about new features after its executives got caught deleting messages is really small potatoes compared to literal genocide. But it speaks to the attitude of distrust that the average user now has. Roughly one in four Americans deleted Facebook from their phones in the past year. And it’s easy to see why.
But Facebook isn’t always making it easy to escape the fetid heap of rotting ones and zeroes they’ve built for us. The company recently had a “glitch” that made it impossible for a large number of users to delete their accounts.
Gizmodo has repeatedly asked Facebook since April when this new unsend feature is coming, most recently sending its PR team a message today. A Facebook Messenger spokesperson finally sent us this message:
Though we have nothing to announce today, we have previously confirmed that we intend to ship a feature like this and are still planning to do so.
We’ll believe it when we see it.