• Facebook Messenger will use "safety notices" to help inform users on how to spot potential scams or malicious users on the platform
  • Facebook executive Jay Sullivan point to the "safety of minors" as key point behind the safety feature
  • It's part of Facebook's increased investment into user safety as the social media giant implements end-to-end encryption for messenging

Facebook unveiled an update to Facebook Messenger that will help protect users from various pop-ups and “friends” it considers suspicious or outright alarming. Jay Sullivan, director of product management, Messenger privacy and safety ,outlined the update in a blog post Thursday, explaining how Facebook intends to protect users.

“Privacy, safety and security are fundamental to Messenger,” Sullivan said. “We work hard to ensure Messenger is a safe place to connect with the people who matter most while also protecting their privacy, and today, I’m excited to announce a new safety feature that will help millions of people avoid potentially harmful interactions and possible scams without compromising their privacy.”

Messenger will issue “safety notices” to help users pickup on suspicious activity within chats. These include tips to spot scams and how to block a “user” before any harm can be done.

Sullivan said the “safety notices” are part of a larger effort to invest in more privacy tools as Facebook moves to end-to-end encryption.

The new feature will also be powered by what Facebook calls “machine learning technology” designed to learn about users by scanning their behavior on the platform. This means if a message's source doesn't match up with a user's previous behavior, it will be tagged as suspicious and a "safety notice" will be sent to the recipient.

“We developed these safety tips with machine learning that looks at behavioral signals like an adult sending a large amount of friend or message requests to people under 18,” Sullivan said. “This ensures that the new features will be available and effective when Messenger is end-to-end encrypted.”

Sullivan said the feature could be most valuable in protecting minors. He said the notices will help users under the age of 18 “be cautious when interacting with an adult they may not know and empowers them to take action before responding to a message."

Facebook Messenger
Facebook is testing a new feature for its Messenger app. REUTERS/Stephen Lam