The ability to delete messages from Facebook Messenger, which was teased last week in the release notes for version 191.0 of the Messenger iOS application, has become a reality, but only in a few countries, thus far.
The Remove feature went live for iOS and Android users in Poland, Bolivia, Colombia and Lithuania, and a Facebook spokesperson said the goal is to have the feature released globally as soon as possible, adding that the timing may be slightly affected by the iTunes App Store’s annual holiday break from updates, which usually lasts a few days.
As previously reported, messages can only be deleted for the first 10 minutes after delivery, and a “tombstone” message is left behind indicating that a message was removed.
Facebook said it will retain messages that are removed “for a short period of time” in order to review them for policy violations in the event that those messages are reported prior to deletion.
Vice president of Messenger Stan Chudnovsky explained the reasoning behind the 10-minute limit to Josh Constine of TechCrunch: “We looked at how the existing delete functionality works. It turns out that when people are deleting messages because it’s a mistake or they sent something they didn’t want to send, it’s under a minute. We decided to extend it to 10 but decided we didn’t need to do more.”
Facebook confirmed some details on how the Remove feature works.
Any kind of message can be removed within 10 minutes of being sent: text, group chats, photos, videos, links. Users can only delete messages they sent.
People with access to the feature can tap and hold on a message they sent and select Remove, and they will see options for Remove for Everyone or Remove for You.
Remove for Everyone will trigger a message that reminds the user, “You’ll permanently remove this message for all chat members. They can see that you removed a message and still report it.”
Removed messages will be replaced by a tombstone message indicating that the user removed the message.
Other people can still report removed messages by tapping on the name of the person who sent them and scrolling to Something’s Wrong.
Chudnovsky told Constine, “The pros are that users want to be in control … and if you make a mistake you can correct it. There are a lot of legitimate use cases out there that we wanted to enable. We need to make sure that we don’t open up any new venues for bullying. We need to make sure people aren’t sending you bad messages and then removing them because if you report them and the messages aren’t there, we can’t do anything.”