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Users given vote on Facebook policies

Social networking site calls for elections

Facebook users will get a chance to vote for or against the company's revised governance documents later this month.

The elections will be held between April 16 and April 23 via a Facebook application developed by Wildfire, while Ernst & Young will audit the results, Facebook has revealed.

Facebook gave its 175 million-plus members 30 days to submit feedback regarding the governing concepts and policies the popular social-networking site plans to draft and adopt. That feedback period ended on March 29 and Facebook received comments from less than 4,000 members.

Facebook is engaged in this process after a change to its terms of use in February ignited a fierce controversy over concerns the company was claiming perpetual ownership of all content ever loaded to the site.

In response to the outcry, CEO Mark Zuckerberg rolled back the changes but announced that Facebook wanted to do away with its terms of use statement altogether and draft from scratch new documents for its governance that are simpler and clearer, taking into account members' feedback.

To that end, Facebook created two 'town hall' sections on its site on February 26 for members to leave ideas and opinions regarding, respectively, the site's principles - its philosophy and values - and the site's rights and responsibilities towards its users.

Facebook lawyers, with the help of law students, have been reading the 3,000-plus comments, and the administrators of the original protest group against the terms of use changes are consolidating the feedback in a list of "key concerns", according to Facebook. The company has also sought input from privacy, copyright and internet legal experts.

"The 30-day comment period for submitting feedback on Facebook's proposed governance documents has ended, but the opportunities to help shape the policies that will govern Facebook have only begun," wrote Simon Axten, an associate on the Public Policy team.

On April 16, the company will post the revised versions of its Facebook Principles and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), along with a response to members' main concerns. Voting will begin that day.

"We encourage you to participate in this vote on our new revised documents. If it is approved, all future changes to the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities will go through the same process of notice and comment," Axten wrote.

Facebook will hold a vote on any proposed change if at least 7,000 members submit comments. The results of the vote will be "advisory" if less than 30 percent of Facebook active users participate in the election. If 30 percent or more of active members vote, the results of the vote will be "binding", according to Axten.

"Your continued involvement in this process is crucial, and we want to thank everyone who has participated so far. We look forward to taking the next step towards a more democratic system of online governance," Axten wrote.

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