Facebook Voters Approve New TOS
After an unprecedented, week-long vote, Facebook members approved the company's proposed new terms of service over the existing user agreement by a nearly 3 to 1 margin. The turnout of 650,000 fell well short of the 30% of active Facebook users, or roughly 60 million people, the company said would be required for the results to be binding. Instead, they would only be considered "advisory" under the voting rules.
After the results are audited by Ernst & Young, Facebook expects to adopt the new terms. "Our plan is to follow what our users are advising and adopt the proposed documents," said a Facebook spokesman Thursday, noting the "overwhelming preference" for them expressed by voters.
Acknowledging the low turnout, he said the company may consider lowering the 30% threshold for participation in future votes. "It's something down the road we may look at changing," he said.
The company adopted the community-based approach to corporate governance following an uproar over revisions it made to its terms of service in February. The backlash stemmed from Facebook appearing to claim a perpetual license to material uploaded to the social network.
Facebook responded by reverting to its previous terms and announced it would allow users to provide input and vote on its proposed new governing documents -- the Facebook Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
Following a comment period on the documents, the vote was conducted from April 16-23 and the process was handled via an application developed by Wildfire.
While Facebook promoted the vote on every user's home page, less than 1% who saw the notice actually took part. "It just goes to show that while a few users clearly got upset over TOS issues, most just don't care enough (or aren't familiar enough with the issues to care, privacy advocates would say) for now," according to the Inside Facebook blog.
It appeared that even those who initially opposed the revised terms of service didn't turn out in force for the vote. As of April 20, "Millions Against Facebook's New Layout & Terms of Service" was the seventh-largest Facebook group, with 2.7 million members.
"We would argue that we created documents that satisfied their concerns," said the Facebook spokesman, who emphasized the steps the company took to publicize the vote across the site, including using 60 million impressions of its own ad inventory and distributing a video in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the governance vote.
If more symbolic than anything, Facebook watchers suggested the governance vote helps the world's largest social network gain trust with users by being responsive to their concerns and soliciting feedback.
Facebook said last month it would follow a notice and comment model, similar to how federal agencies create regulations, for future proposed TOS changes. After a 30-day public comment period, revisions would only be put to a vote if at least 7,000 people posted comments.