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Did You Really Think Facebook Was a Democracy?

The big news today? Facebook ignores 'minimal' user vote, adopts new privacy policy. Not sure what this is all about? Here's a quick overview:

Back when Facebook had a mere 200 million users, a vote would be triggered whenever a proposal from Facebook received over 7000 comments. If this happened, users were given a week to vote on the proposal and the vote would be binding if the voter turnout was over 30% of Facebook's entire user base.

Today, at over 1 billion users, Facebook decided to scrap all that. When a vote was called for the new privacy policy in Facebook (after receiving the necessary 7000 comments) the turnout didn't reach anywhere close to the necessary 30% to make the results of the vote binding (only 668,872 people voted with 589,141 opposed to the new privacy policy). Shortly after the vote, Facebook announced it will discontinue votes of this kind, though presumably it will keep asking for feedback in the form of likes and comments.

The Delusion Of Control

Facebook was never a democracy, at least not where its users are concerned. It's a company, a business, and though they try to please their users, the only votes that count are likely coming straight from the boardroom. I think Our Social Times recently put it best:

"The current system offers users only the delusion of control. Perhaps they appreciate the opportunity to express their opinion even if votes are unlikely to be binding, but the new proposal also offers ways of doing just this. Firstly, the seven day comment period on proposed changes will continue. Facebook will also launch an “Ask the Chief Privacy Officer” feature and will hold regular live-streamed webcasts where users can ask questions."

What Does This Mean For You?

Probably very little, but there are those who are up in arms, crying the de-democritization of Facebook. In fact, there has been a change to the privacy policy, and NBC News' Helen Popkin explains it best:

The new policy will allow Facebook to obtain data about you "from our affiliates or our advertising partners" (with whom you've already shared your personal info, such as websites, memberships, etc.), to "improve the quality of ads." Plenty of sites already do this, matching your info (which you've provided, technically of your own free will) to show you ads you're most likely to respond to, and to report to those ad partners how you responded.

Vote With Your Actions

This doesn't mean you can't affect policy at Facebook; you can. Consumers can always affect policy; they vote with their wallets, their time, their enthusiasm. If Facebook doesn't listen to their users, people may stop using it; if they do listen, they will continue to grow. I truly believe one person can make a difference, but it's up to you. Does this policy bother you enough to stop using Facebook, then go for it! If it doesn't bother you, then continue... Facebook has made its choice and you can make yours. It's the beauty of the free market.    

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