Late update, 3:08 p.m. EST, Tuesday, December 11
The largest experiment yet in direct voting ended with a whimper on Monday, when Facebook closed its user polls on its new proposed terms of service, with what looked to be just 668,872 of Facebook’s 1.01 billion global users having even cast a vote, or just 0.067 percent (sixty-seven thousandths of a percent).
The poor showing will likely be the last ever for Facebook, which is moving to discontinue user voting going forward, giving its users this one final chance to speak up in opposition.
But in order to be be binding, Facebook said the vote needed to garner at least 30 percent of the social network’s entire user-base, or some 303 million users worldwide. Otherwise, the voting is just “advisory.” That 30 percent threshold was implemented in Facebook’s last failed user vote on policy changes in June, which drew just about 340,000 users.
At that time, Facebook was criticized for not providing enough awareness of the vote. This time around, the social network published several blog posts at the start and during the week-long voting period of its Site Governance Page and emailed over 1 billion users, a Facebook spokesperson told TPM.
Facebook on Monday did not provide the official final tally of those who voted, instead promising the full details later to come. But the Site Governance Vote app showed the figures quoted above. As Facebook wrote in a post on its Site Governance Page Monday:
“The Facebook Site Governance vote is now closed. Thank you for your participation. We will be announcing the results and the next steps regarding the governance process shortly, so check back soon.”
A Facebook spokesperson indicated to TPM that the social network would not publish the official full results until Tuesday at the earliest.
Kicking-off December 6, Facebook had given all of its over 1.01 billion users around the globe one full week to vote on the changes it has proposed to its key “governing documents,” the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy, which spell out what type of user data Facebook can collect and what Facebook may do with it.
Aside from ending the ability for users to vote on future changes, Facebook wants to update the documents to explicitly allow the owners of Facebook Pages to make “commercial” use of them (see page 2 here); to give users the ability to reconfigure their Facebook notifications directly via email (page 23); and to give it the power to combine and repurpose user data from both Facebook and its newly-acquired app Instagram, which would presumably allow for more targeted advertisements on both.
Facebook maintainsd that it has outgrown voting due to its sheer size, and that voting emphasizes quantity over quality. In lieu of allowing users to vote on any future changes it may make to the website and terms, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy Elliot Schrage has said the company will hold periods of open comment for users online and conduct interactive question-and-answer sessions with Facebook executives.
Facebook first implemented user voting in June 2012 after pressure from advocacy groups, including an Australian law student behind the “Europe v. Facebook” privacy advocacy organization, which prompted an investigation into Facebook by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. Facebook agreed to make changes in order to avoid fines.
Late update: Facebook on Tuesday released the final figures of its vote, verified by a third-party audit, and they were the same as the voting app displayed on Monday: 668,872 total votes, with 589,141 voting against the changes to Facebook policies.
Nonetheless, Facebook’s vice president of public policy and marketing Elliot Schrage noted in a blog post that the 30 percent threshold for a binding vote had been missed by a wide margin and was going ahead and implementing its new policies (Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy) effective starting Tuesday, which means no more voting and Facebook can now combine and repurpose user data from Instagram.
Correction: This post originally incorrectly misspelled Mr. Schrage’s first name as “Eliot,” with one L, when it should have been “Elliot,” with two. This post also originally said that the Facebook vote accounted for “67 tenths of one percent” when it fact, it was 67 thousandths of a percent. We apologize for the errors and have since corrected them in copy.