A nasty bug in Facebook was showing users years old and read messages as new unread messages without any context or explanation. For many users, the Facebook old messages brought back memories or incidents they would rather forget. Affected users took it to Twitter and other forums to complain about the issue. Facebook confirmed the bug in a statement to The Verge. Fortunately for the affected users, it has been fixed now.
The old messages were popping up as new and unread in the Messenger tab on Facebook.com. The social networking giant told The Verge, “Some people are seeing older messages on Facebook.com. We are aware of the issue and are actively working to resolve it in as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
Thank you @facebook for sending me notifications of messages sent over a year old. Many were from the day my partner, Dean, passed away & now I've spent my evening in fear of what else I'm going to see.
— Adam (@adamadzp) November 26, 2018
It might be a minor bug for Facebook. But it was particularly damaging for people who wanted to forget about certain things or conversations. Imagine someone seeing a long forgotten conversation with an ex or with a loved one who has passed away.
I am not sure what is happening with Facebook and old messages popping up as new ones, but it gets really ridiculous being confronted with some of the chats from couple of years ago.
— ya ? (@ilijajerkovic) November 26, 2018
Facebook old messages a reminder that you should delete messages
The social network retains the entire history of your conversations indefinitely unless you actively delete them. So, it’s always possible for one bug or another to bring back those messages. If you haven’t deleted the conversations you don’t want to read again, it’s a good time to delete them altogether even if you were not affected by this Facebook old messages bug.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Verge that the bug had now been fixed. The problem was caused by “software updates” and has been “fully resolved.”
This is not the first time Facebook has caused trouble for many of its users with old memories. While this was a bug, back in 2015 Facebook’s On This Day feature brought back grim memories for many. It happened because the company’s algorithms couldn’t differentiate between the happy and celebratory posts and those that would bring back painful memories. Both types of content generated similar “engagement” on the platform.
The social networking giant has been trying to improve the Messenger service to keep its users engaged, especially in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and massive data leaks. The Verge recently discovered that the company was working to introduce the Unsend Message feature to the Messenger app. Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives had this feature for a long time.
The Unsend Message feature would allow users to delete a message from your as well as the recipient’s inbox. However, it’s unclear how Facebook would implement it. It would give users up to 10 minutes to delete the messages. The Messenger could inform the recipient that you deleted a message or it could secretly delete it without letting the recipient know. It will prove particularly useful if you “accidentally send the wrong photo, incorrect information, or message the wrong thread.” Other apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp already offer similar features.
The Messenger already has a “Secret Conversations” feature that makes your conversations encrypted, but it’s not easy to switch to that mode for every conversation.