And with that, Facebook’s tepid attempt at democracy comes to a close.
Voting is over in Facebook’s third (and final) Site Governance vote. With just under 700,000 votes cast, Facebook users overwhelmingly voted against proposed changes to Facebook’s SSR and Data Use policies, as well as the decision to remove the current voting system for site governance. But in the end, the turnout was simply too low for it to matter.
It’s not like we expected a different outcome. We knew that users would vote against the changes, and we knew that the vote would not receive enough participation to make itself binding. With the current (soon to be dismantled) Site Governance Vote structure, 30% of Facebook’s 1 billion+ users would have had to vote in order to make Facebook act on the will of the user base. Since somewhere around 0.7% voted this past week, the results are simply advisory. Of course, advisory means that Facebook can simply ignore them.
We knew all of this because Facebook’s “democratic” Site Governance vote was set up to fail. The structure simply doesn’t allow for success. It’s not a lack of promotion on Facebook’s end that makes it this way. Another way of saying that is to say that Facebook isn’t trying to hide the vote. They sent out emails to every registered user reminding them to cast their vote. They allowed users to share the fact that they voted with their friends from inside the Site Governance Voting app. They made several public blog posts on the topic, which linked users to additional information on the changes to the policies.
But mobilizing over 300 million people to vote on something that is pretty much immaterial to their daily lives is a task, to put it lightly. Previous Site Governance votes generated 665,000 and 342,000 votes, respectively – and this third and final vote eclipsed those numbers. But despite a record turnout, we still needed over 299 million more users to vote in order to give the vote meaning – which is virtually impossible (and always was). The early pace of participation hinted that the turnout would top one million – but it obviously slowed down in the final days.
Where do we go from here? Facebook will still solicit user feedback on future policy changes. They’re going to hold Q&A sessions with policy people and may end up involving users in the process more than they ever have. But the vote will be gone. The vote that 99% of Facebook users didn’t care about enough to make a few clicks.
So, most people won’t miss the vote. The vote never really meant anything, anyway. Plus, Facebook had a point when they said that the vote triggering mechanism (7,000 comments) was outdated and ripe for manipulation.
But in the end, we can say that Facebook successfully eliminated voting that doesn’t matter with a vote that didn’t matter. Now, let’s move on.