You're Participating In The Facebook Terms Of Service Vote, Right?

You’ve got about a day and a half left to cast your vote for which Terms of Service you’d prefer Facebook go with—the one written in September 2008 without user input, or the new one they’ve drafted over the last month based on suggestions from the Facebook community.

Here’s the interesting thing, though: Facebook is calling the Internet’s collective bluff on being concerned about this. To avoid what one might call the tyranny of the easily outraged—to keep from making a major policy change because of some perfect storm of Twitter, Consumerist, and the mass media—they’re requiring that at least 30% of active users in the past month participate in the vote for it to count.

We don’t think that’s entirely unreasonable; after all, if you care about this, it’s painless and quick to cast a vote either way. It creates a huge obstacle to overcome, however. As of tonight—about 40 or so hours before the the voting ends—only 300,000 users have cast their vote. For the vote to count, somewhere between 60 and 70 million users will need to vote. Um, yeah.

Here’s what you’re voting for.

Old Terms of Service

This was the fine print from last September, before the February change that caused all the trouble. Facebook created it without input from users. It’s what’s currently being used.

Revised Statement of Rights and Responsibilities
Facebook Principles

These are two complementary docs drafted after receiving user feedback. Together they would replace the old Terms of Service.

Generally speaking, the “Rights and Responsibilities” doc is the legally binding one that would function as the new terms of service. Among other things, it states explicitly that Facebook only claims the right to use your content to make backups, or to share it with people/apps that you approve of, or stuff like that. In other words, they don’t mean “license” in the sense of selling your party photos to a manufacturer to slap onto t-shirts and lunchboxes.

If users successfully vote this document into effect, future changes to it will be publicized and voted on in a similar fashion. You’ll need to become a fan of the Facebook Governance Page to receive updates when this happens. (We’re probably not going to write about it every single time!)

The “Facebook Principles” is more of a code of conduct statement that provides a shared platform from which any future terms will be created. It serves as a sort of window into the Facebook decision-making process, and provides some transparency into how and why Facebook comes up with any future policies.

Facebook may have set the threshhold too high at 30% of global users considering the original pushback came from the U.S. audience, but 300,000 is an embarrassingly low number for something so many people seemed to be so upset about. Our prediction: the vote will be declared invalid due to underparticipation, and Facebook will be able to say “Well, we tried, and nobodyreally cared,” and go back to the legalese practically every other site uses. And if less than half a million out of 200 million registered users bother to vote, then they may have a point.

“Facebook Site Governance Vote” [Facebook] (Thanks to everyone who sent this in over the past several days!)