Facebook to users: Please vote to abolish your right to vote

The social network is proposing to change the way it makes decisions about how Facebook is governed.

Paul Sloan Former Editor
Paul Sloan is editor in chief of CNET News. Before joining CNET, he had been a San Francisco-based correspondent for Fortune magazine, an editor at large for Business 2.0 magazine, and a senior producer for CNN. When his fingers aren't on a keyboard, they're usually on a guitar. Email him here.
Paul Sloan
3 min read

Facebook has long been big on user feedback -- not just the kind that it collects behind the scenes to decide what products to tweak, develop, or kill entirely. The company in 2009 launched its current site governance model, which gave users the right to vote on site governance issues.

Today it's proposing to overhaul its system, saying that the company, now publicly traded and boasting more than 1 billion users worldwide, has outgrown the old model -- and it wants Facebook users to abolish their right to vote on changes in site governance. Currently, for instance, if a proposed change gets 7,000 "substantive comments," all Facebook users can vote on the change and the "vote shall be binding on us if more than 30 percent of all active registered users as of the date of the notice vote."

Facebook plans to do away with that, which is part of its "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" that explains the terms governing the use of Facebook services. Facebook is also proposing changes to its Data Use Policy, which explains how the site collects and uses data.

In a blog post Facebook put up today, Elliot Schrage, its vice president of communication and public policy, spelled out why Facebook wants to abolish the voting system.

We deeply value the feedback we receive from you during our comment period. 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. 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.

The new system would, for instance, limit the influence of privacy activists such as Europe versus Facebook's Max Schrems, who, as TechCrunch points out, has forced votes by encouraging other users to copy and paste comments to a proposal.

In the coming weeks, Schrage wrote, Facebook will roll out new ways of responding to "your questions and comments about Facebook." The company will launch a feature on our Facebook and Privacy Page to let you submit questions about privacy to our chief privacy officer of Policy, Erin Egan.

Other proposed changes include:

  • 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.

You can read through -- and comment on -- all the proposed changes under the "Documents" tab of Facebook's Site Governance Page. Facebook wants you to leave any comments by 9 a.m. PT on November 28. Once the comment period is over, Facebook will host a Facebook Live event where Egan will respond to your comments live.

Updated at 11:40 a.m. PT with additional information about the proposed changes.