Facebook game change: Users won’t have a say in future policy updates
Internet giant Facebook is asking their users to weigh in on some proposed policy changes, and it very well could be the last time they extend that offer outside of their officers. Unless a third of their users log-on to vote against an update to Facebook’s Data Use Policy before next week, the site could stop asking altogether.
Only around 538,000 users have voted so far, and experts say it’s unlikely another 299.5 million let their voices be heard before the December 10 deadline. Now unless a miracle happens, it’s expected that Facebook will follow through with adopting a new policy that won’t put the public’s input into consideration.
"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,” reads a blog post from Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice president for communications, public policy and marketing. “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."
Current users who are against the changes can log-on and vote in favor of the policy currently present throughout the weekend. As one would expect, though, even getting users to cast a ballot for their right to vote is a problem. As Rob Waugh from Yahoo! reports, “[t]he wording of the vote itself is not a simple 'Yes' or 'No.’” In order to vote against the proposed change, users have to visit the official Facebook Site Governance page, then select an option that reads ‘Existing Documents: The current SRR and Data Use Policy,’ as opposed to ‘Proposed Documents: The proposed SRR and Data Use Policy.’
Additionally, Facebook sent an email to users informing them of both the change and how to vote, but with most correspondence sent from the company it was largely disregarded by its hundreds of millions of users.
“It is simply impossible to get 30 percent of the users to vote on anything on Facebook within 30 days,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation's activism director, Rainey Reitman, tells Waugh. The voting system as it stands now, she says, just doesn’t work.
Even if asking for 300 million votes is a longshot, Reitman acknowledges that so far the results of the contest are outstandingly in favor of keeping the current policies.
"We believe this shows that Facebook users are concerned that their voices will not be heard, and do not want to lose the ability have a say in site governance.While the vote may never end up binding Facebook, voters are sending a message about a serious concern, and one we hope Facebook respects and responds to,” she says.
Should fewer than 300 million users log-in to vote, the overwhelming rejection of the policy update is likely to be ignored. Should Facebook decide to go with the proposal, in the future users’ input will constitute “meaningful feedback” and won’t be actually considered as binding votes in policy issues.
The EFF and the Center for Digital Democracy have both signed on to a letter sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that condemns the website’s proposed policy change, urging him to withdraw plans “because these proposed changes raise privacy risks for users, may be contrary to law and violate your previous commitments to users about site governance.”