An example of why Facebook self-governance may be unworkable

I previously discussed the fact that Facebook was kicking around the idea of reworking its terms of use, and to solicit user feedback before implementing certain types of changes.  Facebook stated that a user vote would be considered if 30% of active registered users voted, meaning that 50 million users would need to participate.  As unlikely as that seems under normal circumstances, there are probably even more reasons why this is unworkable.

Case in point:  In the past couple of days Facebook rolled out a massive change to its layout, prompting dissent from a great number of users.  This morning, a new application appeared, prompting people to vote for or against the new layout.  One blogger, at least, was impressed by this new interactiveness:

I must credit Facebook with having learned something from its previous mistakes as they are at least providing a way for users to feed back their feelings in the form of a “thumbs up or down” vote, as well as a page for people to voice their opinions in greater detail. At the time of writing, the votes in favor of the new layout were at 6,111 while votes against have already reached nearly 75,000 and are increasing every second.

However, take a look at the application page.  It states, in the bottom right corner, that this application “was not developed by Facebook.”

So, is this an official Facebook vote?  Is it a phishing scam?  Does it have any meaning whatsoever?  And is there any way to know?  I can’t tell.

In the current situation, it’s possible that, at worst, a whole lot of people just added an application that they don’t need, and gave it permission to grab their user data without knowing who wrote it or what they plan to do with the user data.

In future situations, however, if official votes were to take place, it will be important to get as many people to participate in the official vote as possible.  If the outcome could be rigged by diverting people to unofficial voting sites and duping them into thinking that they participated in the official vote, it may be even harder to get to that magic 30%.

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