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Facebook Policies Open For User Vote

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said a new model of governance will give site members the ability to comment and vote on the company's furture policies.


Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said users will have the opportunity to provide extensive feedback on the social networking site's governing policies--Facebook's Guiding Principles and its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities--by reviewing, commenting and ultimately voting on revisions of the documents.

"Our main goal at Facebook is to help make the world more open and transparent. We believe that if we want to lead the world in this direction, then we must set an example by running our service this way," Zuckerberg said in a company blog post. "I believe these steps are unprecedented in promoting understanding and enabling participation on the Web."

The first documents open for public debate are Facebook's Guiding Principles, which defines user rights and provides a framework for policy initiation, as well as its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which replaces the company's existing Terms of Use policy.

Facebook will embark on the user participation initiative with a series of Town Hall meetings. Over the next 30 days, users will provide comments by joining online groups to discuss each document. Facebook will then review the feedback and subsequently republish both policies with the incorporated changes, once the comment period closes March 29.

The Facebook Guiding Principles and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities are also the first of the governing documents slated for direct user vote, which will be open to all Facebook members active as of Feb. 25. The results of the vote will be made public, and will be binding if more than 30 percent of all active registered users participate in the voting process. If users successfully approve the draft documents, a precedent could be set requiring all future policy changes to be subject to a user vote, Facebook said.

Meanwhile, the company is also creating a user council intended to create user participation in policy development and discussion. Facebook said it intends to invite the users providing the "most insightful and constructive comments on the draft documents" to serve as the council's founding members.

"As people share more information on services like Facebook, a new relationship is created between Internet companies and the people they serve," Zuckerberg said in a statement. "The past week reminded us that users feel a real sense of ownership over Facebook itself, not just the information they share."

Some of the significant changes in Facebook's recently drafted Statement of Rights and Responsibilities include a clause stating that users--not Facebook--own the content they share through the site's services and that Facebook's permission to access the member-generated content expires when users delete the information or when the accounts are terminated.

Zuckerberg added that social networking sites require the ability to meet the needs of its users, which often require new models for governance. Instead of simply reissuing a new Terms of Use, Zuckerberg said the change was designed to give users access and allow them to "participate meaningfully" in the future of the site.

"History tells us that systems are most fairly governed when there is an open and transparent dialogue between the people who make decisions and those who are affected by them," Zuckerberg said. "We believe history will one day show that this principle holds true for companies as well, and we're looking to moving in this direction with you."

However, while Facebook has outdistanced its closest rival, MySpace, in numbers with 175 million active users, compared with MySpace's 130 million, the social networking giant is struggling to achieve the same revenue levels as the former market leader, Reuters reported. While MySpace is coming close to achieving $1 billion in revenue, Facebook generated less than $300 million in sales last year.

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