Facebook Asks for Your Vote on Stripping Your Ability to Vote on Future Changes to Site Governance

Josh WolfordSocial Media

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Back in 2009, Facebook opened up the governance of site policies to its hundreds of millions of users - kind of. For the first time, they allowed users to vote on proposed changes to documents like the Data Use Policy and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Since then, Facebook has held two Site Governance Votes - the most recent one taking place in June.

Since 2009, a vote is triggered on proposed policy changes if the proposal receives a certain amount of comments (7,000). The last Site Governance vote was triggered by a coordinated campaign from privacy groups to force a vote on proposed privacy policy additions. They succeeded in triggering the vote, but failed in mobilizing enough users to participate int he vote to force Facebook to go their way.

Now, Facebook wants that trigger to go away, saying they've outgrown it.

Here's what VP of Communications, Public Policy, and Marketing Elliot Schrage had to say today:

Our goal has always been to find ways to effectively engage your views when we propose changes to our governing policies. That commitment guided our decision in 2009 to launch an unprecedented process for user feedback. When we held our second global site governance vote in June, we indicated that we would review our site governance process in light of the growth of both our community – to over one billion users – and our company – which is now publicly traded and accountable to regulators around the world. Our intention was to make sure the process still served its original purpose.

As a result of this review, we are proposing to restructure our site governance process. We deeply value the feedback we receive from you during our comment period. 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. Therefore, we’re proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement.

In lieu of voting on future changes to policy, Facebook wants to focus more on comments and open dialogue with users. They say they'll be launching a "Ask the Chief Privacy Officer" feature that lets users submit questions and comments to Erin Egan via Facebook's Privacy page. Egan will also host various privacy, safety, and security webcasts via Facebook Live.

Facebook wants users to comment on the proposed changes. If they get 7,000 comments, users will be able to vote on the right to keep being able to vote. The tricky part is not getting 7,000 comments, however - it's meeting the minimum threshold for voter participation.

You see, to make a vote binding, 30% of all Facebook users must participate in the vote. If you do the math, that's roughly 300,000,000 of Facebook's 1 billion users.

To make a long story short, that's not likely. For the last Site Governance vote, a whopping 342,632 Facebook users voted, roughly .038%. That last vote centered on some proposed changes to Facebook's Data Use and SSR policies.

Yes, you're reading this correctly. Facebook is having a vote on whether or not you should be allowed to vote anymore, and the results are all but already determined.

These proposed changes also include a few updates to the Data use Policy, but the big thing here is voting on the right to vote. What's up with that? Well, it's clear that the mechanism to trigger votes is not proper for a site of over 1 billion. With a 7,000-vote threshold, anyone can trigger a vote, really. Plus, Facebook users may bitch about Facebook stripping their right to vote, but as I mentioned before - nobody really voted last time. Maybe Facebook should simply make it harder to trigger a Site Governance vote. That way, people would still have their vote but would be more invested in the issues at hand.

What do you think?

You can comment on the proposed changes as well as find links to those proposed changes here.

Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf