Updated 29 March 2023
Some of our member services (specialist domestic and family violence services) have asked us about the new edit and unsending features that were announced at Apple’s WWDC event on 6 June 2022, relating to iMessaging on Apple devices. Specifically, the ability to edit within 15 minutes and unsend messages within 2 minutes, as well as retrieving messages you have deleted within the last 30 to 40 days.
WESNET members and other domestic and family violence (DFV) services quickly recognised how such features could be misused by people choosing to misuse technology to abuse, but the news here is not as worrisome as it might appear at first glance.
Sending harassing, abusive, controlling, and/or threatening messages is probably the most common form of tech abuse we currently see in Australia. Findings of our 2020 National Survey of Technology and Domestic Violence in Australia showed that a whopping 61% of frontline workers reported seeing text messaging as the type of technology most commonly used by perpetrators to abuse – with a further 36.5% reporting they saw it often.
So, one could argue that tools that enable an abuser to edit or unsend a toxic message might interfere with a survivor’s capacity to document what’s going on. But before we get too concerned….
Here’s what we know:
- First off, the sent message can only be unsent for the first 2 minutes or edited for the first 15 minutes after sending. After that, they’re stuck.
- Second, both devices are going to have to be on iOS 16. That means that if the receiver isn’t on iOS, or is on a different operating system altogether, then the message isn’t going to be “unsent”. This is good news for the many women who have been provided with a Safe Connections phone under the WESNET-Telstra program, as the smartphones are all Androids.
- Third, our understanding is that any message that is unsent or edited is going to be labelled that it was unsent or edited. This is in line with other messaging apps.
What to do if you think this is going to be a problem for you or your clients?
If you do receive an abusive text or message that you think might get edited or unsent, get clicking and take a screenshot straight away to document the abusive message. Check out our handouts on Dealing with harassing calls, texts, and messages and Documentation Tips for Survivors of Technology Abuse and Stalking for more guidance.
The other new feature is the ability to retrieve deleted messages from your device for up to 30 days.
Sometimes, we know that survivors might want to delete messages from their devices. Especially when they are experiencing very coercive or controlling tactics from an abuser who, for example, may demand to see a survivor’s device so they can see what the survivor has been up to.
In these scenarios, we are hoping that the double delete option that is currently available on the ‘Camera roll’ will also apply to the deleted messages. That is, you have to go through a two-step process to permanently and immediately delete the message. [We’ll keep you posted as we find out how it will work].
Of course, deleting a message won’t necessarily help a survivor who has their phone monitored through other means. This is why we’re so pleased with the new Safety Check feature Apple also announced, as it will help survivors quickly assess whether their abuser has access to their devices and take away that access if safe to do so.
At WESNET, we always recommend that survivors think about using a safer device to send or receive messages that they don’t want their abuser to see. One that the abuser doesn’t have access to. You can learn more about how to safely set up a phone here.
If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic and family violence or financial abuse, or remains unsure, there are support services you can access. For confidential information, counselling and support, we recommend calling 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.