Voting Rights Are Gone On Facebook
December 11, 2012

The Polls Have Closed: Facebook To Take Away Voting Rights

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Just before Thanksgiving, Facebook announced a few changes to their Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SSR).

Some of these changes include removing the voting system set in place to move these changes forward. In the old way, Facebook would announce any proposed changes on their blog. If this blog entry received more than 7,000 comments, Facebook would then put these changes to a vote. Once at this stage, 30% of Facebook´s users would have to vote against the proposed changes in order to keep them at bay.

This kind of vote happened once before earlier this year in which only a mere 0.036% of Facebook users turned up to vote.

Facebook had proposed that the voting system be done away with, replacing it with regularly scheduled forums wherein Facebook´s chief privacy officer, Erin Elgan, would field comments and concerns via webcast from users directly.

The polls launched last Monday and came to a close yesterday afternoon. As one might expect, and certainly as Facebook no doubt orchestrated, less than 30% showed up to the online polls to stand against these new methods.

This doesn´t mean that those who did vote were in favor of Facebook´s changes, of course. According to the LA Times, 9 out of every 10 users opposed Facebook´s new changes, which not only got rid of the voting system, but also lessened the restrictions on which affiliates can see your information.

Of Facebook´s 1 billion users, only 668,000 turned up to cast their votes. In order for Facebook to have kept their existing voting model, at least 3 million users would´ve had to have voted against the new measures.

Though the polls have closed, an outside auditor will now tabulate these votes before making an official ruling.

No matter the turnout, it is hard to see these changes as anything but masterminded by Facebook themselves.

Facebook´s vice president of communications, Elliot Schrage, wrote in a late November post: “In the past, your substantive feedback has led to changes to the proposals we made. However, we found that the voting mechanism, which is triggered by a specific number of comments, actually resulted in a system that incentivized the quantity of comments over their quality.”

What Facebook has now done for themselves is set up a system wherein they can make any changes to their policies that they want without much accountability.

For a company known for constantly pushing the limits of what should and shouldn´t be done with private data online, this is a potentially frightening concept.

They´ve agreed to answer comments and concerns via a webcast, but they can also pick and choose which comments and concerns they want to answer. Additionally, any user who cares to take an interest in these concerns will have to hunt down these webcasts, just as they had to hunt down these polls.

To be fair, this could be a completely benign change, one made to bring some efficiency to a policy built for a much smaller company years ago.

On the other hand, now Facebook can make any small changes they want and few people could ever know about it until it affects them directly.