Facebook Ditches Policy Change Voting System

Dennis Faas's picture

Facebook is planning to drop a system that allows users to vote on whether or not the social networking site can alter its policies. The company says the site is now too large for such a system to work effectively.

Until now, Facebook has been tracking comments on posts related to its proposed policy changes. Once there are more than 7,000 "substantive" posts, the proposal automatically goes to a vote of all Facebook users.

The voting system began in 2009, when Facebook received complaints about proposed changes to the legal rights it claimed over photos, videos, and other materials its users had uploaded to the social network's servers.

Policy Votes Usually Not Binding

However, Facebook has honored its voters' preference only when more than one-third of all registered users cast a ballot.

That has meant that more than 300 million users must participate in a vote for the result to be considered binding. Unsurprisingly, it has been highly unlikely that so many people would participate in any given vote. In fact, in one recent vote only 342,000 people took part. (Source: itworld.com)

"We deeply value the feedback we receive from you during our comment period," Facebook noted in a recent statement to its registered users.

"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."

In other words, Facebook apparently doesn't believe that all the user comments posted on proposed policy changes have been genuine.

"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," Facebook's statement concluded. (Source: facebook.com)

Facebook to Answer Questions Directly

The new system will involve Facebook's management continuing to email its users directly about proposed changes to its privacy policies. The social network will also post webcasts to discuss the issue, and will allow its users to submit questions to company officials.

Although Facebook hasn't confirmed this, it appears possible that dropping the voting system may be linked to the company's decision to take its stock public earlier this year.

Even though there is no serious prospect of a user vote overturning a critical policy change, shareholders may be concerned that while the voting policy is in force Facebook doesn't have complete control over its own site.

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