Votes are in -- Facebook gets new governing rules

Offering an olive branch to angry users, Facebook lets them choose their own rules

The votes are in and the initial tally shows that Facebook Inc. users want a new set of governing documents.

The vote came about a few months after thousands of outraged Facebook users slammed the social networking site for taking too much control over their content. In a move to make amends, and to give the angry users more say in what happens to their content, Facebook late last week announced it would let them choose from two Terms of Service options - the current terms-of-use and a new set of rules called the Facebook Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Voters overwhelming selected the new set of principles and rights rules over the existing Terms of Use. Ted Ullyot, Facebook's general counsel, said in a blog post Friday that the new rules were preferred by 74.4% of the 600,000 voters. Voting closed at 11:59 p.m. Thursday night.

However large, the turnout was far smaller than Facebook had hoped for.

In a blog post announcing the vote late last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that at least 30% of active Facebook users -- that's 60 million people - would have had to vote for the results to be binding. But Ullyot said that while only 600,000 users voted, Facebook will nonetheless adopt the Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities as the governing documents for the Facebook site.

"We'd hoped to have a bigger turnout for this inaugural vote, but it is important to keep in mind that this vote was a first for users just like it was a first for Facebook," said Ullyot. "We are hopeful that there will be greater participation in future votes. In the meantime, we're going to consider lowering the 30% threshold that the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities establishes for a user vote to be binding."

He added that they believe the new documents satisfy concerns that unhappy users had raised a few months back.

"We're pleased that users supported the proposed documents and validated our efforts to respond to their concerns," wrote Ullyot. "You can expect to see the new documents on the site in the coming weeks. After that, all future proposed changes to the Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities will be subject to the notice, comment and voting provisions of the documents."

"I think these new terms on data ownership and usage will go a long way toward assuaging the feelings of those who protested earlier," said Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, in a previous interview. "Facebook's new terms and conditions are much more readable than the typical legalese in the last version. It clearly outlines Facebook's terms of service in a way that should be understandable to the majority of users. The terms are also more user-friendly."

Five-year-old Facebook announced earlier this month that it had hit a major milestone as an influx of older users helped it reach the 200 million user mark.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
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