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A glimpse of life under President Zuckerberg? Facebook CEO's boffins censor awkward Q&A

Human cell study AMA on Reddit all cleaned up

Money can't buy you love, but it can remove criticism, at least in the hallowed world of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

With the Zuck continuing his Definitely Not Getting Into A Presidential Race tour of the United States, carrying out a bizarre series of secret photo-ops and precision-engineered PR-friendly drop-ins on normal American folks across the nation, his strict no-criticism policy has extended to the scientific brain tank he set up with his wife.

This week, staff at the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative did an online ask-me-anything Q&A about their plans to help with the Human Cell Atlas – a global effort to map all the cells in the human body.

Despite the suggested inherent nature of the Q&A, however, it turns out that people were not allowed to ask them anything. In fact, if they asked anything to do with the Zuck, and criticized, or even mentioned him, or censured the initiative, or said something the team didn't like, their comments were deleted from the Reddit thread.

Not that you would know now because not only have the comments been removed but most of the "comment removed" placeholders have also gone so what were, in some cases, literally dozens of deleted comments now look like just one or two.

The result is that the usually lengthy stream of Reddit comments and responses in an ask-me-anything is amazingly stunted. The sheer number of comments removed prompted people to start taking screenshots of the session as it went on.

Deleting the deletions


"Is it me or has every single comment that speaks ill of Zuckerberg been deleted?" posted one Redditor moments before their comment was also deleted. And these weren't just nonsense responses either: several deleted comments had more than 200 up-votes before they vanished from view.

Clearly Facebook has become adept at deleting comments given the pressure it is under from governments around the world to prevent the social media service from being used to spread hate and illegal content, but someone should have told Team Zuck that doesn't extend to other people's websites and that it is not illegal to criticize the Mighty Mark or anything he does.

As to what users were saying that got them censored out of existence: issues included the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative itself, which, despite its public persona, is not a charitable trust nor a private foundation but a limited liability company that can make a profit, lobby, make political donations, keep its activities secret and remain under the control of Zuckerberg thanks to how it is funded.

Some were not persuaded as to why the Chan-Zuckerberg approach to the Human Cell Atlas was needed when there are a number of other organizations doing the same work: The Human Protein Atlas, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Allen Institute for Cell Science, and others. We can't be sure of most of the rest of the complaints and viewpoints because, you know, they’ve been deleted.

Prompting the greatest number of comment removals was the question: "Are any of you worried that this has program has been started under the guise of helping the world but may only help corporations increase their profits? I really want to have positive thoughts with this, but this is the founder of Facebook we're talking about."

That is not the kind of thinking that noted billionaire philanthropist Mark Zuckerberg is keen on. And so while the question remains, its responses do not. All nice and clean for Mark. ®

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