Yes, Facebook is reading the messages you send through Messenger

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that has rocked the public’s trust in social media giant Facebook, the company’s founder and CEO has unveiled even more information about the way in which Facebook interacts with its users’ data. In an interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, Zuckerberg noted that Facebook’s system is capable of detecting “what’s going on” in the Messenger app. He added that when “sensational messages” are found, “We stop those messages from going through.”

Of course, this raised significant questions about the extent to which Facebook monitors its popular chatting app, and later, the company told Bloomberg that although Messenger conversations are considered private, “Facebook scans them and uses the same tools to prevent abuse there that it does on the social network more generally.”

The social network noted that all content on the site must conform to identical “community standards.” Posts or messages that seem to run against these standards can be reported by fellow users, in which case the company’s “community operations” team conducts a review. Sometimes, automated tools conduct a review as well.

“For example, on Messenger, when you send a photo, our automated systems scan it using photo matching technology to detect known child exploitation imagery or when you send a link, we scan it for malware or viruses,” a Facebook Messenger spokeswoman said in a statement. “Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behavior on our platform.”

Facebook further noted that the ways in which Messenger looks into users’ messages are, in fact, “very similar to those that other internet companies use today.”

However, another major Facebook-owned chat app prides itself on being entirely unable to read the content sent across its platform. WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired in 2014, boasts end-to-end encryption, which means that WhatsApp cannot read messages at all. While Messenger does have an encrypted option, users have to opt into it and toggle it on.

Facebook recently updated its data policy and set forth new terms of service in order to demystify the rules around Facebook and its related services — notably Messenger and Instagram. We covered this move by the company here. And in a blog post, the network wrote, “We better explain how we combat abuse and investigate suspicious activity, including by analyzing the content people share.”