Facebook users no longer need to worry about their teenage posts coming back to haunt them in later life, thanks to a new tool for deleting hundreds or thousands of posts at once.
The “manage activity” feature, available now on Facebook’s mobile apps, lets users search for and remove posts from a particular time, mentioning a particular person, or within a range of dates.
Its release shows the company acting on one increasingly common reason for young people to steer clear of traditional social networks: the fear that a permanent record of their actions may hurt them down the line.
Facebook said in a statement: “We know that people’s posts from years ago may not represent who they are now – eg old Facebook statuses from university. This tool lets you move posts you want to hide from others but keep for yourself to an archive and remove posts that you simply want to delete.
“We believe people should have the ability to manage and control their data, and we will continue to develop new ways to honour people’s privacy by providing greater transparency and controls.”
Twitter has taken a different approach to the problem, trialling in Brazil the ability to send ephemeral tweets – dubbed “fleets” – which disappear after 24 hours.
In the past year celebrities such as Kevin Hart, James Gunn and Shawn Mendes have issued apologies for old tweets that resurfaced to cause scandal.
Instagram, a Facebook subsidiary, acted earlier than its parent company, driven in part by stiff competition from Snapchat. Instagram Stories have always been ephemeral by default, automatically deleting after a period of time, and in 2017 the company introduced an “archive” feature to head off a growing trend of users deleting pictures that didn’t gather enough likes.
By allowing the images to be archived instead, the company preserved a way for those users to undo their decision – and preserved the data for Instagram to continue to learn from.
Facebook’s move is the latest step in a long journey. A decade ago its founder Mark Zuckerberg confidently declared that privacy was no longer a “social norm”.
“People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,” he told a San Francisco awards ceremony in 2010. “That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”