The comments on Mark Zuckerberg’s free-speech address sure look censored

By Katharine Schwab

As Mark Zuckerberg gave a speech on free speech today, there was something funky happening in the comments on his Facebook Live broadcast.

Zuckerberg waxed philosophical about the importance of the First Amendment, invoking Martin Luther King Jr., the #MeToo movement, and Black Lives Matter, and the comments poured in below his live-streamed video on Facebook. But these comments have a peculiar quality: every single one was positive.

The comments on Mark Zuckerberg’s free-speech address sure look censored | DeviceDaily.com

[Screenshot: Facebook]

That’s a puzzling response to Zuckerberg’s speech, given that much of it also addresses hate speech and inciting violence. It certainly seems like these aren’t all of the comments people are leaving on Zuckerberg’s video: So far, there are nearly 50,000 of them. Instead, the comments that appear almost universally thank him for what he’s brought into the world.

The comments on Mark Zuckerberg’s free-speech address sure look censored | DeviceDaily.com

[Screenshot: Facebook]

Zuckerberg’s Facebook presence has long been a heavily curated promotional vehicle for the company—in fact, there’s a whole team devoted to managing it. But the Orwellian irony of watching Zuckerberg opine on the importance of free speech, which is one of Facebook’s most divisive issues, while comments of support pour in, shows just how much power the Facebook CEO has over what we see online.

The comments on Mark Zuckerberg’s free-speech address sure look censored | DeviceDaily.com

[Screenshot: Facebook]

“I am here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression,” Zuckerberg said. Except, maybe, in showing all the reactions of people watching his video.

When asked for a response, Facebook asserted that it did not moderate the comments.

Thank you and Facebook team for wonderful place to communicate,” reads one. “You made the world smaller and made us closer thank youuuu May god bless you????,” says another. The words “thank you” appear so often that you might think Facebook decided to only show comments with those words, though the company denies that is the case.

Nowhere is there a mention of Facebook’s role in inciting genocide, or allowing Russian bots to run rampant, or the ways that political operatives have used the platform to push disinformation. Elsewhere on the internet, people weren’t so grateful.

You can watch the speech here.

This story has been updated to include Facebook’s comment.

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