Posted April 7, 2009 3:13 pm by with 7 comments

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This year April 16th is no longer just the day after your taxes must be done (or extensions filed depending on what’s going on). Thisdemocracy-we-the-people day is now a new Opening Day of sorts. It is the day the Facebook’s new terms of service (TOS) will be unveiled after the 30 day public comment period. The new document called the Facebook Principles and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities will be open for a vote through April 23rd. The whole process is starting to have a game show kind of feel to it as the entire process is being audited by Ernst & Young. I wonder if the envelopes will be hermetically sealed as well. So much suspense!

Over at MediaPost the entire process and all the specifics are outlined. Of course, going to the source at Facebook’s blog would be a good idea as well. While this sounds all nice and democratic, one needs to drill only a little below the surface to see where all of this positive PR that Facebook has garnered after making their terms of service gaffe back in February could wind up with literally no change occurring.

To review, Facebook’s TOS’s were reworded ever so slightly and gave the distinct impression that content on Facebook was actually Facebook’s content even after a user closed their account. The following maelstrom of outrage caused Facebook to do a quick about face and go back to business as usual under the old TOS. Shortly thereafter, Facebook’s mea culpa led up to the new matter of putting these brand new terms to a vote among Facebookians around the globe. (I doubt I just coined a phrase there but what else do you call a Facebook user?)

Here’s where everything gets very Facebookey, meaning that things are never as they appear with this bunch. Simon Axten, a privacy and public policy associate at Facebook, stated last week

“On April 16, we’ll be posting revised versions of the documents based on the feedback we’ve received. We’ll also be sharing a written response to the main concerns people have expressed. This will explain in clear language why we did — or did not — make certain changes. This is similar to how U.S. federal agencies create regulations.”

These proposed changes are actually the result of speaking with only about 3,000 members. Not exactly an avalanche of response to match the outcry. Once again it may be that just social media industry types are concerned about any of this and even that concern is superficial at best. If approved the new number of folks involved for future changes to be considered jumps to 7,000.

The MediaPost article then said

He (Axten) added that if at least 30% of active users (people who have logged into Facebook at least once in the previous 30 days) vote, and the agreements are not approved, the current terms of use (last revised on Sept. 23, 2008) will remain in effect. If less than 30% vote, the outcome would be advisory rather than binding, and “we’ll take the results into consideration as we determine next steps,” said Axten.

So here’s the kicker.

That means that more than 52 million of Facebook’s 175 million active users would have to vote next week on the new terms for them to be binding.

So in plain English it seems that Facebook is simply looking to be able to say that they are a democracy knowing full well that their voter base will respond like most people do to mid- term elections by saying “Oh, those were today? Oh well”. In the case where changes are made that pass this test and are then complained about by the rest of the Facebook rank and file Facebook can say “Hey, you had your chance. Sorry”

Same Facebook, different day.

  • hav

    it would be swell if you provided a link to actually vote… that might help things.

  • @hav That would need to come from Facebook, not us

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Internet Marketing’s Fresh 24

  • Used facebook for quite some time and havent once looked at their TOS… Interesting article

  • PS3

    Thanks for the article. To be honest I almost never read TOS. They are just too long and sometimes written in the way nobody can understand them.

    thanks for letting us know.

  • “Facebook is simply looking to be able to say that they are a democracy knowing full well that their voter base will respond like most people do to mid- term elections by saying “Oh, those were today? Oh well”.

    I just logged on to Facebook and the petition for my vote is front and center on my homepage. I don’t know how much more of an effort they can make to get people to pay attention to something most people never read.

  • @ Eric Thanks, Eric. It will be very interesting to see if the number needed to enact a change actually respond.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..The Genesis of Twitter

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