Why the arrival of the Edit button on WhatsApp is a bad idea?

The ability to edit messages in WhatsApp and iMessage is about to pose serious problems, say some lawyers.

Made official a few weeks ago, the Edit button will soon arrive on WhatsApp and iMessage. On a daily basis, the functionality long awaited by Internet users promises to avoid typos and other careless errors. A very practical addition therefore, even if it also risks posing serious security problems in the future.

Announced during WWDC 2022, the Edit button will appear on the iOS16 version of iMessage. Concretely, the functionality will make it possible (with several others deployed simultaneously) to modify a message after sending, but also to mark a conversation as unread, or even to cancel the sending of a message a posteriori (up to 15 minutes after its original shipment). It will also be possible to recover messages up to 30 days after their deletion.

For its part, WhatsApp also plans to add a series of similar features to its instant messaging application. In addition to the emojis that now allow you to add a reaction, the Meta group’s platform wants to make it possible to correction of message after sending.

Will the Edit button promote harassment situations?

In an open letter addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook, lawyer Michelle Simpson Tuegel warned Apple against the abuses that this message editing function would allow. According to her, the iOS 16 update — and by extension WhatsApp — “would pose a serious risk to those experiencing harassment and abuse“. By offering Internet users the possibility of modifying or deleting their messages for up to 15 minutes, it could become very difficult for the victims and their lawyers to gather evidence to file a complaint.

It remains to be seen how WhatsApp and iMessage decide to handle the problem. Michelle Simpson Tuegel calls in particular on the GAFAM to reduce the time for modifying messages to two minutes instead of fifteen. The lawyer also recommends clearly displaying that a message has been modified or deleted afterwards, and allowing users to disable this option.

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