Everyone Is Voting Against Facebook’s Policy Changes and It Doesn’t Matter in the Slightest

    December 4, 2012
    Josh Wolford
    Comments are off for this post.

You probably know that Facebook just opened up its third-ever Site Governance Vote, allowing users to vote on proposed changes to the company’s SSR and Data Use policies. Or maybe you have no idea. Maybe you don’t care. That’s fine, but there are thousands of users that do know and do care – and their votes are as useless as Democratic votes in Mississippi.

Like previous Site Governance votes, Facebook is letting users weigh in on proposed changes to the site’s governing documents. The big difference this time is that Facebook is also letting users weigh in on whether or not this should be the last time they get to vote on these types of changes. Facebook wants to get rid of the roughly three-year-old system that allows users to trigger a vote on policy changes with a comment threshold, saying that the site has “outgrown” the system.

Have you participated in a Facebook Site Governance vote? Do you even care? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Apart from the voting mechanism, Facebook wants to change their policy on sharing data with affiliates, as well as Facebook Messages and data visibility on users’ Timelines (for more on those policy changes, check here). As expected, the early vote looks to swing hard toward “nay” on these changes. But with Facebook’s current Site Governance voting structure, users simply have no real chance in affecting the company’s policy.

That’s where Facebook and its users can agree: the voting system is flawed and the site has most definitely outgrown it. From Facebook’s point of view, the 7,000 comment threshold designed to trigger a vote lends itself to manipulation by over-zealous privacy advocates. And they’re right – it’s happened before. The last Site Governance vote back in June was triggered in large part by the efforts by a privacy group called Europe v. Facebook, who flooded the policy proposals with comments to force the vote.

That vote saw a whopping .038% participation rate from Facebook users. Because of the low turnout, Facebook was able to push the proposed policy changes through even though a majority of users voted against them.

And that’s the other reason why the current voting system is broken. Once a vote is triggered, users have about a week to cast their vote. Facebook then requires that 30% of the active user base vote in order for the results of said vote to be binding. If fewer than 30% vote, the results are merely “advisory.” Read: Facebook can ignore them altogether.

Since Facebook has over 1 billion MAUs, that means that over 300,000,000 users would have to vote in order for Facebook to be held to the will of the user base. Last vote saw 342,632 participants. I’m sure you see the problem here.

That’s why it’s incredibly unlikely that the current Site Governance vote, no matter how it turns out, will be a binding mandate from the people. There’s just not enough interest in the process. As it stands, Facebook’s voting system is too easy to manipulate and so demanding as to render it worthless.

In June, when the vote received such a low participation rate, Facebook defended their 30% threshold, saying,

“We made significant efforts to make voting easy and accessible – including translating the documents and voting application into several of the world’s most popular languages and providing extensive notice through users’ news feeds and desktop and mobile advertisements. There has also been widespread media attention and coverage of our notice and comment and voting process.”

At the time, Facebook said that they would “review the process to determine how to maximize our ability to promote user engagement and participation in our site governance process in the future.” And as we now know, that review led to the conclusion that the whole thing be scrapped in favor of a more involved user feedback program for proposed policy changes.

That brings us the the current vote, in progress. After nearly a day of voting, users are overwhelmingly against the new policies. Here’s what the vote looks like right now:

Although 58,000 votes in less than 24 hours seems like a lot of interest, you have to realize just how small of a chunk of the entire user base it really is. Considering Facebook has 1 billion active users, the current tally represents .0058% of all users. That has to somehow make its way to 30% by December 10th. I think it’s safe to say that it’s highly unlikely, if not impossible.

So, Facebook’s new privacy changes and the abolition of the voting process will go through as planned. While the current voting system is obviously worthless, I don’t think that a voting system is worthless. One that made it harder to trigger a vote, but easier to make that vote binding sounds like a pretty good option – at least to try. In reality, generating enough interest in something like a Site Governance vote would always be a difficult venture. But eliminating the vote entirely is sure to piss people off.

The only problem is that it’s not going to piss off nearly enough people for it to matter.

What do you think? Should Facebook get rid of the voting mechanism for proposed policy changes? What kind of system do you think would work best? How could the company prevent manipulation but allow users to have their voice heard? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://facebook zohre


    • http://www.actclassy.com Brad

      Good point, zohre.

  • http://facebook.com/s16music S16 Music

    The size of facebook makes it fairly bullet proof in the short term

    Its simple, if you don’t like the rules, leave the game.
    We manage bands and are in the process of moving them to other social network locations.
    We have just moved a band h2so4 and cancelled their facebook page.
    This is Facebooks loss, the band having 200,000 views on YouTube in the last month might be small but 100 bands of this size finding alternatives and removing their pages will eventually hurt Facebook.
    Maybe not this year or next year but as soon as their profits dip by 20% they become an investment risk.
    As for voting it is flawed and needs changing, I am changing with my feet and advising others to do so

  • Lynn

    “Extensive notice through newsfeeds”? I never saw a single notice about a vote. I never knew we _could_ vote!

  • Kevin

    Since when are a company’s policy a democracy amongst their customers? If you don’t like their service, leave, that’s the ONLY vote you’re entitled to, and the ONLY vote a company is bound to

    Facebook users are, in general, more pathetic than iPhone freaks…. get a life

    • Pete Rowberry

      Of course we could vote with our feet and look for another service, but every company should have sense of corporate responsibility and as Facebook knows so much about us and our life styles, sharing that data is a critical issue. The users must understand and preferably control these privacy issues.

  • http://complaintportal.com Sol

    Facebook being like any other business entity or organization considers themselves boss, only if it really impacts their bottom line will they bend over for the public’s concern.

    I am hoping to get emails from victims of past, present and future, help me find them. Curious as to what victims I need? On my site you will find the story at complaintportal.com. Then go to the contact and use that address to send your well thought up complaint, remember as a witness/victim you know best what took place.

    Best regards,
    Founder of Public Justice

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    Welcome to the new reality.
    How did 0bama get re-elected when the majority was against it?
    Facebook is just following suit … screw the majority, they lack cohesion and a megaphone.

    • UmmmNo

      2012 Election Results
      Barack Obama: 62,611,250 Popular Votes and 332 Electorial Votes
      Mitt Romney: 59,134,475 Popular Votes and 206 Electorial Votes

  • Don Macdonald

    Could care less if Facebook disappears forever from the net. A real bore with continual pain in the ass emails.

  • http://www.impursuits.com Steve

    They will tell you what you want, not the other way around. They are big enough, now, to do that.

  • http://www.impursuits.com Click

    Facebook is big enough to do that. Let’s all take a vote and then we’ll decide if we like the outcome or not (Facebook).

  • greg

    Though I enjoyed your article I found myself thinking “who cares” Facebook is full of enough abuses to cloud this issue and aren’t there more important things in the world to worry about – like the continual attack on domain control by US politicians who continually feel it is their god given right to bully the rest of the world.

    Facebook is losing steam and there are more effective social marketing tools so is this just more hype to keep a buzz going?

    As for the current users they will never really get involved in this campaign for they have more important issues to deal with .. like surviving.

  • Alec

    Vote with your feet !

  • http://octo-fi.com Sol

    In the USA or most other countries and if not all of them, there exists no true democracy. It is pseudo democracy and people are fooled to believe they have a greater say with impact, yes to a small degree but not fully due to the system being a flawed democracy. I hope the future can bring change from the abusive democracy we live in. Now there are many people who will argue against this idea as in their little bubble worlds ‘a perfect democracy’ and state of life is viewed with rose-tinted glasses that they bought some where.

    • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

      The USA is not a Democracy, it’s a Democratic Republic.
      The main problem is that it’s been corrupted by having it’s Government (Public) School curriculum altered and bastardized as has it’s MSM (Main Stream Media … megaphone) by a Progressive group intent on defeating and changing the USA from within.

  • Lava Pi


    Hard to say. I’ve gone from checking my FB page from once an hour to once a day to once a week to once a month to once every three or four months. I suppose when I finally reach once a decade, they might pull the plug on me.

  • Don

    It is really simple. FaceBook either does what we, the suckers viewing their profitable advertising, wants or we go elsewhere. We don’t need FaceBook, but where is Facebook if the majority of us leave?

  • http://Junoemail Njegann Njai

    Facebook should attach an app or software feature that would block each client’s site-use at voting time but allow access ONLY after a voting page is opened and the user has voted. This would force massive voter turn-out and benefit the voting user-clients and Facebook at the same time.The voting page should clearly, but perhaps briefly, state all what the vote is about and offer three options to the client…YES..No…and undecided.
    Thanks for allowing me to comment.

    Njegann Patrick Njai

  • http://www.hyphenstudio.ca Hyphen Studio

    I would say that the main issues with this system is that we are constantly overwhelmed with wall so much wall static on Facebook that the really important messages end up getting lost in shuffle. Like others here I only check my personal Facebook maybe once every 3 or 4 days. Facebook is making a smart move in saying that we’ll leave it up to the user-base to make this decision, based on the outcome of the vote.

  • http://www.seo.com/blog Patrick Williams

    I agree with the previous comment. I didn’t even see this “vote” even pop up in my news feed. I am so overwhelmed with Mikes photo’s of his new baby, and Katies status update about where they had sushi yet again! Why not send out a private message to all of the users, and have us all vote?? That wouldn’t be so difficult to figure out would it?

  • http://elainequinn.com Elaine Quinn

    Use it and abuse it. That’s what they do to us!

  • Pete Rowberry

    The existence of this voting mechanism means that Facebook have to make all the changes to policy visible and explaing them to the user community. Even if the turn out is small, this is a very valuable control on the service and its treatment of its users and their privacy.

  • http://www.keralatourismmart.com Kerala Tour

    No value in facebook voting

  • http://mcordobatenorio@gmail.com Marvin Córdoba

    Es buena aplicar esta política, así se puede tener
    un poco más de privacidad en lo personal, Facebook
    es un medio más de comunicación y no de charlatanerías

  • Jenn

    I can only assume Facebook is purposely trying to avoid people voting so it doesn’t have to abide by the vote, because not only has no one I know ever seen the notice, but you cannot find it anywhere on the website, not even by searching in the Facebook search bar.

  • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

    If you want people to vote for an issue you let them know , if on the other hand you dont want participation you promote it half halfheartedly. Which in this case FB has done.

  • http://www.tipsinablog.com Danny

    Agree with other comments in that, if you are not happy with the state of play with Facebook, just close your account.

    I think people are being overwhelmed and often drowned in social media interaction, to the point that they often don’t have time to read all the fine print(so they don’t get the whole picture–if their privacy were at stake for example)….and therefore may not feel the need to take it to a vote…

  • http://www.socializare.net Gary

    I don’t give a dam of facebook in general be cause facebook is one useless crap. Man if you want to get in a social network make one of your own.

  • http://www.NicheWolf.com Dori From NicheWolf

    Mark if you really wanted us to air our views , you would have put up a notice of this on the site . I never heard of the *VOTING* thing until now.

  • http://santorini-bikes.com/webalizer/index.asp?fenlei=brand brand

    Great entry, and thanks for taking the time to publish it; Im sure other readers benefited as wel. It really opened my eyes for some new perspectives that I hadnt thought of before.