When Facebook changed the terms and conditions of use back in February, some 70,000 members complained about a perceived content copyright grab and forced a rethink. At the time, founder Mark Zuckerberg promised that Twitter had "decided to take a new approach" towards developing new terms. Unfortunately that new approach has now been revealed, and it ain't pretty.
It involves letting the users vote on which set of terms and conditions it would like to have implemented, with a promise to abide by that democratic decision. So what could be wrong with that? As it happen, really quite a lot to be honest.
For a start, Facebook has changed the goalposts regarding what constitutes a binding user decision. Initially it was a vote in favour or otherwise that hit 25 percent of the membership, now it is 30 percent. In real terms, given that the latest membership figures reveal there are some 200 million Facebook users, that means an extra 10 million users now have to be in on the vote. Up from 50 million to an incredible 60 million, or does it? Well no, because there are yet more caveats to take into account. Only those members who joined Facebook before the 26th of February 2009 will be eligible to vote, and only then if they have actually logged into the site during the previous 30 days. As Facebook is not making the numbers of these 'active members' public we do not actually know how many people have the right to vote, but it will require 30 percent of this unknown number for there to be any kind of binding mandate.
Speaking to ComputerWeekly, Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, says "We should not be surprised that corporations do not want to give power to their users" and likens the new Facebook 'democracy' to the old German Democratic Republic.