Facebook wants to end user voting on policy changes

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Facebook is proposing to trash its policy that allows members to vote on changes it makes to its data use policy.

While promising to value user feedback, Facebook Vice President for Communications, Public Policy and Marketing Elliot Schrage declared in a company blog 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."

Under the existing rules, proposed changes that receive more than 7000 comments trigger a vote on those changes. If 30 percent of Facebook's 1 billion members participate in that vote, the social network is obliged to abide by the results of that vote.

Under the proposed rules, Facebook will give its members seven days to comment on a policy change. "After the comment period, if we adopt any changes, we will provide notice (for example, on the Facebook Site Governance Page or in this policy) of the effective date," the company explained.

In his posting, Schrage outlined two new ways that Facebook plans to keep its members apprised of changes the social network makes in its policies. One is called "Ask the Chief Privacy Officer." It's a Facebook page where members can submit questions to the social network's privacy top dog Erin Egan. Another is the hosting of live webcasts where Egan will address members' comments and questions about privacy, safety and security.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Egan noted that Facebook had outgrown the voting mechanism. In 2009, when the policy was implemented, Facebook had 200 million users, she explained. Now with a billion users, it's relatively easy to get the 7000 comments to trigger a vote, although very difficult to get the some 300 million votes needed to approve or disapprove of a change.

Earlier this year, Facebook members were able to force a vote on some controversial privacy changes proposed by the social network, but they fell woefully short of mustering the 30 percent needed to influence the policy changes. Some 342,600 votes were cast, just 0.1 percent of the 900 million members Facebook had at the time of the vote.

In addition to sacking voting on policy changes, Facebook is also proposing updates that include:

• New filters for managing incoming messages;

• Changes on how certain products are referenced, like instant personalization;

• Reminders about what’s visible to other people on Facebook, such as deleted posts on your Timeline; and

• Tips on managing a timeline, such as what tools are available for deleting your own posts, or asking someone else to delete a post in which you’re tagged.

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