Facebook Messenger is one of the most widely used communication platforms in the world today. People who are thousands of miles apart can talk, video chat, and exchange texts, photos, and videos in a jiffy without paying any long-distance charges. All you need is an internet connection.
However, there are many instances when users run into the “Attachment Unavailable” Facebook Messenger error when accessing files shared with them. This can be a bummer since Facebook Messenger is a social media platform, which is all about sharing content or digital information.
What many didn’t know is that Facebook has built a comprehensive privacy section at the request or even behest of millions of users. It means posts can be hidden from specific ‘audiences’ to protect personal information from the rest of the internet. Alternatively, the content might have been deleted by the original poster or by Facebook itself.
Continue reading if you want more information about the ‘Attachment Unavailable’ error and how to fix it, so your recipient can see the content you are trying to share and vice versa.
What is Facebook Messenger?
Facebook Messenger is a very popular free messaging application. It syncs with your Facebook account but can also be used independently. For example, if you deactivate your Facebook account, you can still continue using the Messenger mobile app to stay in touch with friends and family.
The app is great for instant messaging and sharing videos, images, audio files, and URL links between two individuals or within a group with multiple members. Users can also call their Messenger contacts using the video chat feature, similar to Facetime.
What is the “Attachment Unavailable” Facebook Messenger Error?
While Facebook Messenger is a fantastic tool for communicating with friends and family, it’s not immune to issues. One of the commonly reported problems with Messenger is the ‘Attachment Unavailable’ error message. This message appears when a user tries to share an image, meme, or other attachment with someone else on Facebook Messenger. Instead of displaying the attachment normally, the recipient only sees the ‘Attachment Unavailable’ error message.
The full error message reads:
This attachment may have been removed, or the person who shared it may not have permission to share it with you.
This error is so common it even became a bit of a meme such as the examples below:
What causes the ‘Attachment Unavailable’ Error?
The full ‘Attachment Unavailable’ error message reveals the cause of this issue:
- Someone has removed the original content (usually the poster, but Facebook also often removes images and content that break its Terms of Service)
- Facebook’s privacy settings protect the content, and the recipient is not able to view the attachment because the original poster has not given them permission
Facebook’s privacy settings are constantly changing. Facebook continues to overhaul its Settings & privacy offerings every few years while making meaningful changes in the interim.
A few years ago, Facebook added the ability for users to control WHO sees their posts. Every post can be individually managed, hence giving Facebook users a fine degree of control and thereby alleviating their concerns about their private personal information getting accessed by anyone on the internet.
When you post anything on Facebook, you can select the Post Audience. You can set it to Public, Friends, Friends except.. (when you want to select specific people to exclude), Only Me, Specific friends, and Custom. Anyone that does not belong to the ‘audience’ you selected will not be able to see your posts.
The said protection extends beyond your wall or stories. If someone within your selected post audience tries to share your content with someone else, the recipient will not be able to view it.
4 Ways to Fix the ‘Attachment Unavailable’ Facebook Messenger Error
1. Check if the Post has been Removed
Before you do anything else, you should check if the post or image is still available. Often, someone uploads a photo or makes a post that they decide to delete later on. If you try to share said post via Facebook Messenger, it will now say “Attachment unavailable”.
Alternatively, it may not be the poster’s doing. If you shared a post that is shocking, revealing, lewd, profane, hateful, misleading, or libelous, Facebook might remove it. Facebook has an extensive post-monitoring system that looks for inaccurate posts (sharing false information) and posts that break their TOS (nudity, hate speech, etc).
If you go back to the original place you saw the post and it is missing, that means the post has been removed. If you were sharing something that was previously shared by someone else first, their share would still exist, but the post itself might display the following message:
2. Check the ‘Post Audience’ Privacy Setting for the Attachment
If you share a post or image that someone else posted, but your recipient only sees the ‘Attachment Unavailable’ message, you need to refer back to the post to see if that’s where the issue originates.
Find the original post and look directly underneath the poster’s name, you’ll find one of these icons:
- Friends (and friends of anyone tagged)
- Members of X group (sub X for any Facebook group)
- Friends of friends
If the post is Public, anyone on Facebook or elsewhere can view the image without any privacy conflicts. If the post has the ‘Friends’ icon, your recipient can only view it if they are Friends of the original poster or anyone tagged in the post.
If the ‘Members’ icon is present, your recipient can only view the attachment if they are a member of that Facebook group. And if the ‘Friends of friends’ icon is present, your recipient must be a ‘second-degree connection,’ aka a friend of one of the poster’s direct friends.
How to Change the Privacy Setting:
If you are not the original poster…
If you think the original poster would want to share the post with a wider audience:
- it is directed at the public (post about something happening in the community)
- the poster is trying to sell something
- It’s very funny and might go viral
Then you can reach out to them and ask if they can change the permissions to make it shareable with the public or Friends of friends.
If You are the Original Poster…
If you were the original poster but now want to share the post via Facebook Messenger with other people who were not in the original audience:
1. Navigate to the post and click the three ellipses in the top right-hand corner. Then select Edit audience from the drop-down menu.
2. Within the Select Audience window, change the audience to Public, so there are no privacy issues sharing to Facebook Messenger. Then click Done.
3. Try to reshare the post to your Facebook Messenger recipient to see if they can now view the attachment.
3. Upload the Content Yourself
If you are very determined to share a post with someone on Facebook Messenger but don’t want to contact the original poster to have them change the post audience, you can upload the content directly in Messenger.
Use screenshots for images or static content, but if you need to share a video, you can use the screen recording feature on your smartphone. This is a morally gray area if it’s personal information, but if it’s just a funny meme or image, there are no real privacy concerns:
- You can screenshot the post on your phone and send it to your intended recipient on Messenger. Or you can hop on your Windows computer and hold down the Windows key + Shift + S to open the snipping tool. Then use your mouse to select the area you want to screenshot.
- Open up Facebook Messenger and open the conversation where you want to send the content. Click the text message area to compose a new message and press Ctrl + V to paste the image.
- Click the blue arrow to send your message.
4. Add Recipient to a Private Facebook Group
You used to be able to share content from a Facebook Group without any issues. Facebook, however, has cracked down on this so Private Facebook Groups can offer more security and privacy for their members. For content to be shared now, both you and the recipient must be members of the Facebook group that contains the intended post.
Most Facebook Groups are open to the public as long as you can prove you are a real person (to prevent spam) by answering a few questions. If you find yourself wanting to share content from a Facebook Group with someone else, you can invite your friend/recipient to the Group:
- Navigate to the Facebook Group page. Click the Invite button located at the top of the page.
- Within the Invite friends to this group window, you can narrow your friends list down to invite by category or search for friends by name. Your friends will require admin or moderate approval before being added to the group. Click Send invites.
- Wait until your friend has filled out any required questions and been added to the group. You can now freely share in Facebook messenger without encountering the “Attachment Unavailable” error.
“Attachment Unavailable” Facebook Messenger Error is Fixed!
Unfortunately, the ‘Attachment Unavailable’ error is not always fixable, but you may be able to get around it with a screen recording or screenshot. But please, take this route only if the content will not adversely affect the original poster.
To sum up, if you don’t control the content, you are at the mercy of the original poster’s privacy settings. If they don’t want the content shared with a broader audience, you can’t directly share the image or video. You may circumvent the issue by uploading the content yourself, but it would be morally, or even legally wrong if you are sharing sensitive personal information.
If you posted the content yourself, you could easily edit the Post Audience information to share with anyone on Facebook Messenger. And if the post exists within a Private Facebook Group, you can usually get around the ‘Attachment Unavilable’ error by inviting your recipient to the group.