Facebook Inc. scans the links and images that people send each other on Facebook Messenger, and reads chats when they’re flagged to moderators, making sure it all abides by the company’s rules governing content. If it doesn’t pass muster, it gets blocked or taken down.
The company confirmed the practice after an interview with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, published this week, raised questions about Messenger’s practices and privacy. Zuckerberg told Vox’s Ezra Klein a story about receiving a phone call related to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Facebook had detected people trying to send sensational messages through the Messenger app, he said.
“In that case, our systems detect what’s going on,” Zuckerberg said. “We stop those messages from going through.”
Some people reacted with concern on Twitter: Was Facebook reading messages more generally? Facebook has been under scrutiny in recent weeks over how it handles users’ private data, and the revelation struck a nerve. Messenger doesn’t use the data from the scanned messages for advertising, the company said, but the policy may extend beyond what Messenger users expect.