6 things you need to know before deleting your WhatsApp messages

Last week WhatsApp released an update which allows users to delete messages after they have been sent.

South African users will no longer have to deal with that immediate sinking feeling of regret that comes with sending a message you shouldn’t have; however, it also means there are new considerations that come with deciding to “unsend”.

This is according to Verlie Oosthuizen, head of social media law at Shepstone & Wiley, who outlined some of the conditions that come with the new “unsend” feature.

These include:

  1. It only works for messages that have been sent in the last seven minutes;
  2. It only works if you and the recipient are using the latest version of WhatApp;
  3. The recipient will be aware that you have deleted the message as it will say “This message was deleted” in place of where the message was in the chat;
  4. If you delete the message, even though seven minutes has not passed, it does not mean that the recipient has not seen the message;
  5. If the deletion is not successful, you will not be informed of that and so you may be in blissful ignorance that your undesirable message has been seen by the wrong people.
  6. If someone sees the message, or captures a screenshot, you are still legally liable for it.

According to Oosthuizen, there are also new legal considerations when deleting a WhatsApp message.

“Legally, once ‘publication’ has taken place (that is, the message has been sent and seen by others), if the message is defamatory then you could still be legally liable,” she said.

“Also, any screenshot of the offending message only takes one second to take… which could be before you have had a chance to delete the message.”

How to delete – Android 

  1. Open WhatsApp and go to the chat containing the message you wish to delete.
  2. Tap and hold the message. Optionally, tap more messages to delete multiple messages at once.
  3. Tap Delete (the grey bin icon) at the top of the screen > Delete for everyone.

How to delete – iPhone

  1. Open WhatsApp and go to the chat containing the message you wish to delete.
  2. Tap and hold the message > choose Delete from the menu. Optionally, select more messages to delete multiple messages at once.
  3. Tap Delete (the blue bin icon) > Delete for Everyone.

Read: These Facebook, WhatsApp and social media messages could mean jail time: R2K

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6 things you need to know before deleting your WhatsApp messages