Facebook Adopting New Usage Policies
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Facebook has said it plans to adopt new governing documents after throwing them open to a vote by its users.
The new policies specify, among other things, that Facebook's members own the content they put on the site, an issue that stoked a heated controversy earlier this year.
In February, Facebook amended its usage agreement to assert ownership of all users' data, even after they had deleted their account. That change, which was seen by many as the latest in a string of incursions against of Facebook users' privacy, sparked an uproar in the community that prompted the company not only to reverse the policy change, but to publish new governance documents that members would be able to comment and vote on.
After four days of polling, Facebook pronounced its new governance policies a success.
"We strongly believe that our proposed documents satisfied the concerns raised in February," Facebook General Counsel Ted Ullyot wrote in a company blog post.
It is worth noting that Facebook's democratic makeover only concerns the site's usage policies. The site stopped short of polling users on changes to features on the site, such as the recent redesign of the home page that has drawn sharp criticism.
Despite the widespread media attention Facebook garnered when it opened the new documents to a vote, the turnout came in well below the 30 percent threshold the company set for them to become binding. Nevertheless, Facebook said it would adopt the new policies.
Facebook said it tallied more than 600,000 votes on the new documents, that mark is less than 1 percent of the site's 200 million users.
"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," Ullyot said. "We are hopeful that there will be greater participation in future votes."
Following the ratification of the documents, Facebook said that any future changes would be subject to a similar comment and voting process, though it said it would consider lowering the 30 percent threshold when it polls its members on future changes in the company's policies.
Some privacy advocates remain unconvinced by Facebook's show of democracy.
"I don't think Facebook has done a good job getting the word out on the vote for governance rules," Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told InternetNews.com. "They are playing this purposefully low-key, when they should be doing an Obama-style campaign to get out the digital vote."
Facebook said it would ratify the new documents following a third-party audit.