Facebook started testing private comments, having rolled them out to a limited number of users earlier this month, The Next Web reported Monday. The functionality that can be seen in the screenshot below appears to only cater to commenters and not people or pages whose content is attracting comments, whereas the test itself remains limited to a small sample of desktop users or at least hasn't yet been sighted on Android or other mobile platforms. Posters can enable private comments before sending them by clicking a padlock icon next to the comment field on desktops. Doing so should bring up a privacy menu similar to the one already attached to posts, allowing authors to choose whether they want their content to be visible to anyone or only their friends.
Alternatively, the functionality is also said to allow for some granular controls, much like Facebook's privacy settings for posts. In that regard, you're able to make your comments (in)visible to the post author and their friends or followers, though the system currently doesn't allow other individuals to be specifically included and excluded from your approved list. The final option is for one's comment to only be available to them and the author of the post. The Menlo Park, California-based social media giant has yet to officially confirm the existence of the test but may do so shortly, depending on whether the feature has already been greenlit for a wider rollout following a period of testing and optimization. Ultimately, the functionality likely aims to boost Facebook's engagement rates by allowing commenters to feel safer about commenting on controversial topics like news pieces, i.e. express their opinion on subjects that are more likely to attract online abuse.
On the other hand, the feature appears to be yet another element of Facebook that contributes to creating social media bubbles and ideological echo chambers for which the company has often been criticized in the past. It's currently unclear whether people who were approved to see the comments will be able to tell they were made private to some other users on the network, though that doesn't seem like a probable scenario, as suggested by Facebook's previously employed product practices.