619,000 people have cast their ballot in Facebook’s vote on site governance and policy, and 87% want to block the changes. But unless 299.4 million more people vote by Monday at noon PST, Facebook users will lose the ability to vote on future changes, and their data will be intermingled with Instagram. Enough votes won’t be cast, so Facebook’s experiment with “democracy” will be coming to a close.
Some think Facebook was never a democracy even with the voting structure since the system made it almost impossible for the results to be binding. This is the third, and likely final Facebook site governance vote, and it may end up drawing the highest turn out ever. It follows one in April 2009 when 665,000 people voted, and another last June where about 342,000 cast their ballots. Facebook got far more than the 7,000 necessary comments on this proposal to trigger the vote. As of now, 544,642 have voted against changes and 75,539 have voted for them.
Unless we see some miracle of digi-civic engagement by Monday at noon pacific when the voting period ends, the overwhelming sentiment against the proposed changes will just be taken “under advisory” and Facebook is free to enact the changes. Only if over 30% of all Facebook users vote would their majority decision be binding and could block the new versions of Facebook’s Statement Of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy.
To Facebook’s credit, it gave this vote a fair chance. It emailed all its users about the proposal, let people share the fact that they voted or the current results with friends, and showed those posts prominently in the news feed. Facebook could have minimized visibility of the vote with fewer sharing features and less feed presence, but didn’t.
The impact of the governance change will be subtle but important. Facebook will now operate like most other companies. It will listen to its users in more ways that before, but they won’t have a direct channel for affecting site policy. In the end, it’s the public market that will decide if Facebook treats its supporters right. Even if the voting system was largely a farce, without it, Facebook’s one billion users might feel a little less connected to the network that’s supposed to connect them.
You can vote here for either the existing site governance documents or the new proposed changes that remove the vote and permit the combination of Facebook and Instagram data.