Dismal voter turnout may doom Facebook's quasi-democracy

Facebook will abolish users' ability to veto its policy changes unless 300 million people cast a vote. Without a huge spike before today's noon deadline, user voting rights are history.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
2 min read
Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

Update, 12:10 p.m. PT: Well, it's past noon PT. Facebook hasn't officially called it yet, but a look at the Facebook app tallying votes, show only 588,923 votes cast. That's not nearly enough to make the decision of users stick.

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

Facebook users have until noon today to vote on Facebook's recently proposed policy changes relating to data use and privacy. Unless at least 30 percent of Facebook's membership -- or around 300 million users -- cast ballots, Facebook said it will abolish voting altogether. So far, fewer than 600,000 users have voted. So unless there's a surge between now and noon -- or the independent auditor hired to double-check the count finds an extra 299.4 million votes somewhere -- the Facebook  vote will be history.

Facebook developed the voting model in 2009 to solicit feedback from users about the network's frequent changes. But, Facebook argues, it's 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 event know there was a vote going on).

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

Here are some of the policy changes voters are 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 personalization.
  • 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 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.

If you do care and just missed out the hubbub, you can cast your vote here.

Correction, 12:52 p.m. PT: The earlier number indicating the number of votes still needed was incorrect. The vote is short 299.4 million.