Facebook’s most recent “Site Governance Vote” has – dependent on your point of view – either proven a sham or a complete success, as only particularly interested users would have known about the poll in the first place.
Facebook yesterday closed its week long voting process, during which it asked users to respond to proposed changes to the social media site’s governing documents, with notable changes suggested to governance and data use terms.
A resounding 88 percent of voters opposed the proposed changes.
However, “only” 668,872 users took part in the poll – failing to reach the 30 per cent voter participation quorum required by Facebook in order for the poll to have binding impact.
The poll lacking the necessary 300 million participants stipulated by Facebook bosses, the results are deemed “advisory” – in other words, they may well be ignored. The farcical nature of the whole endeavour raises a multiplicity of issues.
Firstly, the vote was incredibly poorly publicised. Yes, the voting process was announced via a press release – but how many Facebook users regularly check the press section of the social networking site in case new announcements have been made?
Users can also “like” Facebook’s own “Facebook Site Governance” page, through which announcements will be passed along to page “likers”. As at writing, the page has 2.6 million “likes” – some way off the required 300 million voters.
As such, only the most interested users – those who really care about Facebook’s policies, including the governing documents – would have even heard about the vote. There was certainly no widespread message in every user’s inbox informing them of their right to vote.
In this sense, the whole vote was a sham. Users were not kept informed, and there was not the slightest chance that 30 percent of Facebook’s one billion users would know about the vote in order to participate within the seven day timeframe.
However, in one sense the poll was a success. Facebook has received a very clear response from a segment of its user base – the segment that really cares.
If Facebook really wants a response from users, these are the people to listen to. They have sought out the narrowly-defined methods of accessing information about the social networking site, they have researched how to be included in announcements. These users care.
From this viewpoint, Facebook has the response it needs, and as such it is unclear why the quorum exists in the first place. Why dismiss the results of this vote amidst demands for more voters, when a succinct and clear response has already been given by the users that care the most?
Of course, more should be done to inform all users of changes to terms and conditions and ensure awareness of poll surveys – if the vote function survives the proposed changes – but, in the meantime, Facebook perhaps should consider itself bound by such an overwhelmingly clear answer.