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Facebook Ends Experiment In Democracy

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ZUCKERBERG
AP

Is Facebook now too big for democracy?

The social networking giant says it will end in its current form an experimental voting system designed to give users a voice in changes to its privacy terms and other governing policies.

The system was introduced in Spring 2009 (dubbed "the First Republic of Facebook by Buzzfeed).

Under the model, Facebook would hold votes on changes if more than 7,000 people commented on the proposal. If 30% of the site's users voted - currently around 300 million - the majority would win, and Facebook would enforce their decision.

It was widely seen as a concession to the outcry from Facebook's users over controversial changes to privacy settings on the site.

But now Facebook says it is too large for this process to work. With more than a billion users, it was just too easy for stories to reach 7,000 comments, Facebook said.

It's also been noticed that in the last vote, just 0.038% of members voted - roughly 1,000 times fewer than the required 30%.

"We found that the voting mechanism, which is triggered by a specific number of comments, actually resulted in a system that incentivised the quantity of comments over their quality," said Elliot Schrage, VP of communications, in a blog post.

"Therefore, we're proposing to end the voting component of the process in favour of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement."

However the change does not quite result in the imposition of what some have called "Zuckerbergistan".

Facebook will now launch new feedback tools, including a forum of questions and answers with Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan, and email notifications sent to all billion users about any policy change.

There will also be a seven day comment period, and the change to push any proposal to a vote.