Tiny Turnout Dooms Facebook Users' Right To Vote On Policy Changes

The big vote on Facebook's proposed policy changes is in... and it's tiny. A paltry turnout of less than 1% of Facebook's one billion-plus user base means that the measures proposed by Facebook will pass, including the dissolution of the voting process altogether. So much for rocking the vote.

7 To 1 Vote Is Meaningless

589,141 Facebook users voted in favor of keeping the site's existing policies while 79,731 users voted to switch things up and adopt the proposed policy changes. The funny thing? It doesn't matter at all, since the vote would only be binding if 30% of a billion-ish users cast a vote. Sure, rallying more than 33 million Facebook folk was all but impossible, but the governance vote ended today at noon Pacific time with less than a million votes - an even more abysmal turnout than anticipated.

Since it always required a 30% turnout to actually effect any change, the site governance vote was a nominal right to begin with. While I think Max Schrems and Europe Vs. Facebook have the right idea in putting the heat on the social network for increased transparency and better privacy procedures, abolishing the vote affects exactly nothing - except symbolically. Facebook claims that it will pursue a more meaningful channel for user feedback moving forward, since clearly the existing system wasn't exactly working as intended - especially as Facebook's membership exploded. But we'll have to wait and see how that turns out. 

According to Facebook's Site Governance blog:

"To be clear, our goal in modifying our site governance process is to make sure that we receive feedback from you in the best, most productive way possible so that we can be responsive to your input. Many of you provided us with ideas on how we could continue to meet that goal. You pointed out that our decision to update the process gives us an opportunity to innovate and search for new and better ways to enhance participation. We agree and will incorporate your suggestions into creating new tools that enhance communication on Facebook about privacy and governance."

Other Changes

Beyond un-voting users' voting rights away, the microscopic level of participation means that a handful of other changes to Facebook's Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) also go into effect. Contrary to popular misinformation, the company isn't messing with users' ownership of their own content. Beyond a relaxed set of rules around sharing user data with its affiliates, namely Instagram, the amendments mostly alter the language around Facebook's privacy and advertising policies rather than the content of the policies themselves.