Facebook User Policy Vote Ends With a Whimper

Though some 668,000 users voted, it was nowhere near the 300 million votes that were needed to keep user policies as they are.

Facebook's one-week voting period to gauge user reaction to proposed changes to Facebook's user policies ended Dec. 10, and according to early results, Facebook won the right to make changes as it sees fit. That means Facebook members will no longer be voting on proposed user policy changes as they have done in the past since the Website began.

Under the existing user policies, if at least 30 percent of Facebook's 1 billion users didn't vote to keep the old user policies—essentially rejecting the new proposals—then the new policies go into effect.

Facebook hasn't yet disclosed the exact vote tallies for the week-long exercise, but the odds of meeting that incredibly steep 30 percent vote target seem as slim as winning the Powerball Lottery. That is especially the case because in the history of the voting, even when there were far fewer than 1 billion members, there was nary a chance to get 30 percent of the members to vote in the first place, let alone in a relatively brief seven-day period.

An email inquiry seeking comment from Facebook officials Dec. 11 has so far not been answered.

However, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, only about 668,000 of Facebook's 1 billion users voted on the changes, with about nine out of 10 voting to reject Facebook's proposals and leave the voting process as it is already laid out. The vote will now be reviewed by an outside auditor, according to the story.

So now what?

What's likely is that Facebook will move ahead with its proposed policy changes, which included the controversial idea to drop such elections from occurring in the future. The idea, according to Facebook, is that the company acknowledged that the possibility of getting that many users to cast votes against policy changes was getting more remote as the member list grows.

But for users, even though such an argument makes sense, there has been opposition just because at least under the old system of voting, there was a clear way to make their views known, although it was ineffective. At least they could show their direct input, users argued in comments posted to the Facebook Site Governance page.

The last time a user policy vote was held earlier this year, only 342,000 people voted to halt the changes, according to Facebook.

Facebook originally announced the pending user policy changes in this round of changes on Nov. 21, when the company said that it would soon hold a vote to ask members for their views. The actual round of voting began Dec. 3.

The recent voting also applies to several other proposed revisions to Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) and Data Use Policy, according to the social media company. If users vote for the old policies that are already in place, that means that they don't favor the proposed changes.

To replace the voting practices on proposed user policy changes, Facebook wants to implement a better system of direct feedback and comment from users to its corporate officers, including the chief privacy officer, and through a series of live Webcasts, where comments and concerns about privacy, safety and security could be discussed.

Critics, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a nonprofit privacy group, are unhappy about the latest round of proposed user policy changes; they argue that these changes raise privacy risks for users, may be contrary to law and violate Facebook's previous commitments to users about site governance. The group also argued that the 30 percent voting threshold and the one-week time frame for voting were difficult standards to meet.

A related proposal that came under the recent vote to allow the sharing of user information with Facebook affiliates has also come under loud criticism. In April, Facebook acquired Instagram, which presently doesn't share user information with Facebook. That potentially could change in the future if the user policies are modified.