Dismal voter turnout dooms Facebook's quasi-democracy

Facebook said that it would abolish users' ability to veto its policy changes unless 300 million people cast a vote. The turnout wasn't even close.

The results of the vote.
(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

So much for a quasi-democratic Facebook. The social network's users didn't cast anywhere near enough votes to preserve users' ability to veto Facebook's policy changes.

Facebook users had until 12pm PT (7am AEST) today to vote on Facebook's recently proposed policy changes relating to data use and privacy. Unless at least 30 per cent of Facebook's membership — or around 300 million users — cast ballots, Facebook said that it would abolish voting altogether. When the clock ticked over, just over 600,000 users had voted. So now the Facebook vote is history.

Facebook developed the voting model in 2009 to solicit feedback from users about the network's frequent changes. But, Facebook argues, it's since outgrown that system — it's now a publicly traded company that has to answer to a range of regulatory issues.

Facebook made some efforts to promote the vote. The company enabled users to share their vote with their friends in hopes of getting more people to vote and held a live Q&A session with Facebook's privacy team to answer questions (one user who submitted a question didn't even know that there was a vote going on).

Despite those efforts, it seems that most users still didn't know or care about the vote.

Here are some of the policy changes that voters were considering:

  • New tools for managing your Facebook Messages — replacing the "Who can send you Facebook messages" setting with new filters for managing incoming messages

  • Changes to how Facebook refers to certain products, like instant personalisation

  • Reminders about what's visible to other people on Facebook. For instance, when you hide things from your timeline, those posts are visible elsewhere, like in the news feed, on other people's timelines or in search results

  • Tips on managing your timeline. For example, you can use tools on your timeline or activity log to delete your own posts, or you can ask someone else to delete a post in which you're tagged.

Via CNET.com

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