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Impromptu, with rebuttal

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/13/2010 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,544 times Debate No: 12328
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
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This impromptu round, first developed in this form by Yvette, takes the spontaneous spirit of an impromptu debate and mixes it with rebuttal, a major part of what makes a debate come alive. This is how the three rounds will go:

Round 1: Both sides offer their opponent three options for debate, from which that person chooses one and also chooses which side to take on that motion.
Round 2: Each side makes their argument.
Round 3: Each side rebuts the other person's argument.

Simple! The three options I give my opponent are:

1) The U.S. Vice President should be directly elected at the same time as, but separately from, the U.S. President.
2) Facebook, as currently constituted, is detrimental to an individual's right to privacy.
3) Poker should become an Olympic sport at the earliest possible opportunity.


Thank you to my opponent for my first (of hopefully many) debates.

For my topic of debate I have chosen:
2) Facebook, as currently constituted, is detrimental to an individual's right to privacy.
For which I will take the Pro/Affirmative side.

Here are my options:
1. The President of the United States should be elected by popular vote.
2. Spelling differences (ex. colour vs. color, theatre vs. theater) should be standardized throughout the English language.
3. Laughter is the best medicine.
Debate Round No. 1


These are certainly three very interesting topics, and though I'm very tempted by the second one, I'll go PRO on the motion that: The President of the United States should be elected by popular vote.

Under this system, every four years, every U.S. citizen would vote for who they wanted to be President. All of the votes would be added, and the person with the most number of votes wins, subject to any recounts if the vote is close. In the extremely unlikely event of a tie, a run-off election would be held, maybe a week or two later. No electoral college, no deciding vote in the House of Representatives (like in 1824 [1]) - just one popular vote, which is the ultimate decider.

In presenting my case, I will divide it into two sections: one, on the fairness of the system of election by popular vote; and the other, on the unfairness of the electoral college system. This is despite there being significant cross-over between the two - even so, I have split it up as I have both to make the text easier to read, and also to separate two separate, if interlinked, strands of argumentation.


Whichever state the President comes from, he (or, maybe not too far into the future, she) represents the whole of the United States. He/she makes decisions that affects every US citizen, both domestically through federal law and internationally through America's reputation abroad. As such, everyone eligible to vote in the country should have an equal influence in who becomes the President as anyone else.

This clearly happens when the popular vote is taken into consideration - take the comparable results of New Mexico and Florida in the 2000 Presidential election as an example. In Florida, there were 537 votes between Bush and Gore [2], with 27 electoral votes going to the winner [3]. In New Mexico, the result was closer, with 366 votes being the difference between Gore and Bush - however, only 5 electoral votes went to the winner in this state.

Under the current system of choosing the people who will ultimately elect the President by state electoral votes, therefore, 269 people in Florida (the amount of people who would have needed to switch from Bush to Gore, in order for Gore to win) had a bigger influence on who became the President with their 27 electoral votes than did 184 people in New Mexico (the relevant amount, vice versa, in New Mexico), with their 5 electoral votes. If it had been done by popular vote alone, then this big disparity would clearly not exist - indeed, given that Gore won the popular vote by over half-a-million votes [4], neither state would have had a bigger influence than the other, and Bush would have needed to garner support from more than just several thousand people in a few swing states in order to win.

Why is it the case that Floridians are presumed to have a larger stake in the outcome of who becomes President than do New Mexicans? Granted, the number of electoral votes are allocated indirectly according to state size and population, but why does this matter? As mentioned earlier, the President of the U.S. is not any more the President of Florida than he/she is the President of New Mexico. Responsibilities given to the Office of President affects everyone equally - influencing the creation of federal laws (and being able to veto them), appointing judges to the Supreme Court, advancing and forming America's reputation on the world stage, and so on. All of these are things that affect everyone on equal lines, beyond state boundaries. So why is it that the size of the state in which an American lives has an impact on their influence on this election? How can such a system possibly be fair?


Two words: Al Gore.

Seriously though, in addition to the unfairness already mentioned, unfairness also creeps into Presidential elections every time the electoral college result conflicts with the popular vote. Many times the electoral college and the popular vote give the same result, as for example in 2008 when Barack Obama won both the votes [5] - in these cases, given that there is no difference and the arguments made in the previous section, there's no reason why the popular vote couldn't have been used as the decider.

But 4 times in electoral history, there has been a disparity between the two. [6] That may not seem like a lot, but when you consider that the result affects who leads the country for 4 years - and in 2000, gave Bush the incumbency advantage that the Republicans would not otherwise have had that helped him retain power for another 4 years - this disparity becomes all the more pressing and important.

Two of the results spring out - firstly, we have the half-a-million votes extra that Gore received, and yet it was a mere 537 extra votes in Florida [2] that famously gave the result to Bush. If the election had been decided by the popular vote, the controversy over the hanging chads, et al., wouldn't have mattered one jot - the Presidency would have gone to Gore by a mile.

The second result that springs out in particular is 1824, when John Quincy Adams became President. As it turns out, he won neither the popular vote nor the electoral college vote. It is only because his main opponent, Jackson, didn't have a majority of electoral college votes - even though he was the unequivocal winner of the popular vote - that Adams ended up winning, given that the State delegations in the House of Representatives voted in his favour. [1] Here, the unfairness is different from that seen in 2000 - in that the same person got more popular votes and electoral college votes - but it is still clearly unfair, in that that person did not end up being elected President. The system must surely change.


The Office of President of the United States is a federal responsibility, and the holder of that office has control over matters that affects every U.S. citizen equally. A system, therefore, that allocates different states a greater say in accordance to their size is fundamentally unfair and should not be in place.

Furthermore, it is easy to see how the electoral college system can skew the result, such that the person who commanded the support a majority of U.S. citizens did not become President. This happened most recently, and famously, in 2000 when Bush Jnr. was elected President despite having half-a-million fewer votes than his nearest rival, Gore. This office is so important, and the holder of the office so powerful, that we cannot allow such an unfair system to continue.

In many elections, yes, the two systems under question give the same result. In those instances, if they both give the same result, then there seems to be no reason not to change it. But given the importance of these elections, the unfairness of the electoral college system, and the skewed results that it is liable to give, there are very good reasons why we should change it. The U.S. President must be elected by popular vote, not by the electoral college.




[3] [for some reason, doesn't like brackets in URLs - but I'm sure you all know which page I mean anyway :-)]





As stated before, I will be debating pro on the topic, "Facebook, as currently constituted, is detrimental to an individual's right to privacy."
Before this issue can be debated we must define privacy. Privacy is defined as, "the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one's private life or affairs," [1] with private best being defined as, "personal and not publicly expressed" [2].
The point at which Facebook becomes detrimental to an individual's right to privacy is in the three words, "not publicly expressed." Facebook and its employees do not seem to know the meaning of these words because they continuously run into trouble over disseminating private information. In my case I will first establish an individual's right to privacy and then present cases in which Facebook has violated that right.

-The Right to Privacy-

Perhaps the most significant affirmation of human rights is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While not binding for any country, it has set the standard for human rights across the world. Because it is charted by such a powerful organization (a statement my opponent can be sure to agree with, as established by his profile [3]) any serious violations of the Declaration can expect to draw attention, as has the issue before us now. The article of the Declaration that most concerns this issue is Article 12, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks" [4]. Facebook has absolutely interfered with privacy and potentially interfered with correspondence, honour and reputation, as will be established later.
Some may argue that because a person has put certain information on the internet, or more specifically, a Facebook profile, that information is no longer private and that person has given up their right to privacy. When this becomes true depends on when a person has not "publicly expressed" information. To know when a person has publically expressed information, we must define public. Public is best defined for this issue as, "open to all persons" [5]. Therefore, a person has given up their right to privacy when they have made information known to all persons. In the case of Facebook, a person can make their information known to all persons by selecting "everyone" in his or her security options. The options available are (in order from most private to least) are: "customize", "friends only", "friends of friends", "friends and networks" and "everyone". By selecting "everyone" a person consciously gives up their right to privacy. But every other option is somewhat selective, making the information open to some persons as opposed to all. In these cases, a person has not given up their right to privacy. Therefore, when information is given to unauthorized persons, Facebook is not only violating the right to privacy of the owner of the information but the privilege of those selected to see that information. Sadly, Facebook has violated people's right to privacy by publically expressing information and it has made this violation more than once. When the world shouts, "rights!" Facebook goes left.

-Violating the Right to Privacy-

How does Facebook love thee? Let me count the ways.
There are 400 million active users on Facebook. 50% log onto Facebook on any given day. The average Facebook user has 130 friends and creates 70 pieces of content each month. More than 100 million Facebook users engage with Facebook on external websites every month [6]. So what does this mean for Facebook? Lots of information on you which equals lots of money for them.
Facebook makes money through the advertisements seen on the side of every Facebook page. And though the advertisements are small, they reel in big bucks; Facebook made $500 million last year, with about 3/4 of the revenue coming from ads alone [7]. The ads are targeted towards users; when a person puts information on his or her profile, that information is used to display ads that may appeal to the user. Although this practice seems harmless, it's alarming how much information Facebook gathers from its users.
First, look at Facebook's privacy policy from 2005. "No personal information that you submit to Thefacebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings."
Now, look at Facebook's privacy policy today. "When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends' names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. ... The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to "everyone."... Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page. If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not making) the connection" [8].
Obviously, Facebook has changed its definition for what is "private." Look at the first line from the privacy policy now. Facebook admits that it gives information to applications and websites. Although the information may be as simple as a name, a name alone carries a lot of weight. A name on a college degree gives a very positive reputation. That same name on a porn website destroys the former reputation. This example, though admittedly somewhat intense, is possible and is a violation of the right to protection against interference with honour and reputation.
This communication of information can also go the other way, from websites to Facebook. Facebook's Beacon system sent information from particular partner websites to Facebook users' News Feeds. For example, if a person were to make a bid on eBay, that person's friends might see that information. The service was default, creating many concerns that information a user might not want to be seen (such as the captain of the football team renting Sex and the City: The Movie for the fifth time) would now be seen by all. The system was shut down in September of 2009 following a lawsuit [9]. But the communication continues today, with "like" buttons seen throughout websites across the internet. While not as illicit as the Beacon system, it only takes one false click to let everyone see what you've been doing on the internet in your free time. This unauthorized communication between websites and Facebook also violates the protection to interference with correspondence.


It should come as no surprise Facebook is the second most used website in the world [10]. Millions of people connect everyday, both old and new users. And although Facebook has many benefits, it has huge vice: disrespect for privacy. Any supporter of human rights would agree that privacy is a fundamental right. The United Nations is one of these supporters. But Facebook continues to violate this right to privacy by collecting and distributing information without the permission of said information's owners. Facebook's advertisement system and website interactions collect and distribute unauthorized information which is why Facebook, as currently constituted, is detrimental to an individual's right to privacy.









Debate Round No. 2


I thank my opponent for presenting a very thorough case. I'm separating my rebuttal into three sections which, roughly speaking, correspond to how the arguments appeared in my opponent's case.


On, my opponent's dictionary reference, there are various different definitions of "private". [1] He chose number 4, "personal and not publicly expressed". I challenge this definition, and instead believe that number 8, namely "not open or accessible to the general public", is a better definition.

Why does this matter? It matters because my opponent drew the word "publicly" out of his definition to present a dichotomy between "private" and "publicly expressed". The conclusion drawn from this is that one's right to privacy is breached whenever information is made public. But this surely does not tell the whole story, for there is a difference between "rights" and "duties". A right is "a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral" [2] A duty is "something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation." [3]

The difference is that rights can be voluntarily given away, whereas one has no such choice with a duty - the former is an entitlement which one can reject, whereas the latter is an obligation by which one must stand. And clearly, privacy is a right, not a duty. For example, I can invite whomever I want into my private life - in a relationship or marriage, for instance - and this is clearly not seen as a detriment to me. It is only a detriment if this happens against my will, or without my consent. My opponent cannot successfully, therefore, claim the argument already won in saying that we give personal information to Facebook. He also has to show that this is done without people's consent, which he has not - and which, as the next section of my rebuttal shows, is simply not the case.


Facebook is a social networking site. That is the very point of its existence. Therefore, people are being incredibly naive if they expect absolute privacy on the site. The question must be to what extent they are allowed to control their privacy. There are four pieces of information which always remains public on a user's Facebook account: their name, profile picture, gender and networks joined.

Facebook successfully justifies this thus: knowledge about one's name and profile picture are vital for real-life friends to find you on Facebook and differentiate you from other people of the same name; your gender allows Facebook to refer to you correctly ("Write on his wall"); and knowing who is in which network allows people to know who is in a given network before setting their privacy settings to "Friends and Networks Only", which is a good privacy option precisely because people in a network (by virtue of the company or location in question) are more likely to know each other, thus facilitating real-life friends to find each other on Facebook. All of these compulsory public details - which, by the way, could be forged if the user wanted even more privacy - are therefore not detrimental to their right to privacy. [4]

Every other detail about oneself can be made totally private. In his listing of privacy options, my opponent missed out the "customisation" where one can make any piece of information available "Only to Me." [5] In this way, it is very easy for Facebook users to maintain an extremely high level of privacy.

Furthermore, when someone starts a Facebook account - and before they put any sensitive information on Facebook - they are prominently informed both of the existence of the privacy policy, and of the initial privacy settings that can be changed by them. This happens when an account is created [6], and when someone first starts on their newly created account [7] [8]. A user of Facebook has therefore directly allowed Facebook to show their shared information in accordance with their own privacy settings. Their right to privacy is therefore upheld.

=== Alleged violations of privacy ===

There are three alleged violations given by my opponent. These are:

1. Advertisements

My opponent needed to show that these have a detrimental effect. It could conceivably be "alarming how much information Facebook gathers from its user", but it only if they actually used this information in a detrimental fashion. Or, indeed, if Facebook hadn't asked permission before taking this information. There is no evidence that it has been used in such a way, and as shown above, they do get permission by virtue of an account's creation and continued use.

2. Change in privacy policy

This is due to Facebook's change in usage. It began as a Harvard-only dorm-to-dorm site, developing into a worldwide social networking website. For the reasons already given, the information made public is not detrimental in any way.

My opponent also says:

"a name alone carries a lot of weight. A name on a college degree gives a very positive reputation. That same name on a porn website destroys the former reputation. This example, though admittedly somewhat intense, is possible and is a violation of the right to protection against interference with honour and reputation."

Yes, that example is intense. It is also irrelevant to this debate. Facebook is not a porn site. Nor, for that matter, is it a college degree. It is Facebook, a social networking site. What conceivable damage could be done to someone about whom it is known that they frequent Facebook? Assuming we live in a democratic state, or we are using a reliable proxy server, surely none. I fail to see my opponent's point here.

3. On the Facebook Beacon system

As my opponent pointed out, this was shut down in 2009 and so not part of Facebook as currently constituted. However, he mentions "like" buttons across the internet, which if clicked result in instant updates on Facebook. Now, I have never seen this continuing feature, and my opponent provided no evidence of it. I can't see how these external websites would end up knowing about a user's Facebook account without the user actively combining the two accounts, or giving explicit consent in some other way. I am thus reluctant to accept my opponent's implication that this information transfer to Facebook is ever done without the user's consent.

But even if we assume that it is, I'd point out that everything that is put onto your Facebook profile can be deleted - including former profile pictures, posts (both on your own wall and on other people's walls), and activities as well. Therefore, if you really have messed up by accidentally moving the mouse onto a "like" button and pressing it, and you want to reverse it, you can go to Facebook and do so. Immediately. I don't understand where the alleged violation of privacy is supposed to happen here, especially given my earlier comments about how the website would know about the Facebook account in the first place.

In conclusion, as a social networking website, Facebook users expect and want information to be shared. They can decide who accesses this information - from everyone to no-one - and none of my opponent's allegations of privacy violations hold up. For this reason, his motion should be negated. Thank you.


[6] after the "Sign Up" button.
[7] in the top-right, when someone moves over the Account button - as would be expected of someone exploring Facebook.
[8] - Number 6.


Thanks to my opponent for a great debate and excellent arguments.

I will keep my rebuttal simple.

My opponent has failed to sufficiently affirm the topic, "The President of the United States should be elected by popular vote."

Not only does my opponent spend most of his time pointing out flaws in the Electoral College rather that explaining why the President should be elected by popular vote, the case he makes to affirm the topic is filled with errors.

My opponent's argument begins by stating that, "Under this system, every four years, every U.S. citizen would vote for who they wanted to be President." While this is not an error is logic, is it na�ve. The 2008 election had the highest voter turnout in years with 131032799 votes cast [1]. But this is still only about 63% of people eligible to vote [2]. What is to suggest that the popular vote system would bring in more voters than the electoral system?

My opponent goes on to say that the winner would simply be the one with the most votes, subject to any recounts if the vote is close. But he later states that "If the {2000} election had been decided by the popular vote, the controversy over the hanging chads, et al., wouldn't have mattered one jot." It is true that if that particular election had been under the popular vote system the recounts wouldn't have mattered or even had to have been performed. But again, what is to suggest that the popular vote system is better? My opponent has acknowledged that the popular vote would still be subject to recounts and therefore the same controversy that plagued the 2000 election could plague others.

The next point made is that "in the extremely unlikely event of a tie, a run-off election would be held, maybe a week or two later." The only purpose a run-off election would serve, however, is to eliminate third party candidates, which hardly influence the vote anyways. In the 2008 election, third party candidates garnered zero votes in the Electoral College and only 1.42% of the popular vote [3]. Also, a run-off election would be incredibly difficult to prepare for in one to two weeks and highly unproductive to prepare for in advance, not to mention costly. The 2008 presidential election cost $1.6 billon [4], twice as much as the 2004 presidential election. If my opponent is looking for a way to break a tie, the preferential system would be a better option than the popular vote because it would automatically break ties [5]. But this is irrelevant because once again my opponent has failed to prove why the popular vote system is better than the Electoral College.

Lastly, my opponent states what would be eliminated through his plan, "No electoral college, no deciding vote in the House of Representatives (like in 1824 [1]) - just one popular vote, which is the ultimate decider." First, "no electoral college" does not prove why the President should be elected by popular vote. Second, my opponent seems to take issue with the deciding vote in the House of Representatives. I will elaborate further on this in the next section on my rebuttal.

To summarize, it is clear that I am taking issue with the fact that my opponent has failed to give evidence or even reason as to why, "The President of the United States should be elected by popular vote."

If I had to affirm this topic I probably would have included discussions of how the United States is founded on democracy and how democracy includes everyone and maybe why a popular vote is more cost effective. Instead, throughout his case, my opponent just points out flaws in the current system, the Electoral College. My opponent tries to address the issue by discussing why the popular vote is fair, fair being defined as "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice" [6]. But all he does is give examples as to why the Electoral College is unfair. By trying to prove the Electoral College as unfair and expecting it to prove the popular vote system as fair is affirming the consequent, a serious logical error. Just because something is proven to be fair or unfair does not mean proof as to why another item is the opposite. The Electoral College is not the subject of the topic, nor is the topic asking for why it is worse. Because my opponent has simply failed to affirm, I urge a vote of negation.







Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Yvette 7 years ago
Oh, hehe.
Posted by Logician 7 years ago
Lol, no need to have sourced me, Yvette - I'm definitely not the first person on this site to use the impromptu debate style, though I do rather like it :)
Posted by heroes867 7 years ago
Haha, sorry! Didn't see your comment.
But a great style of debate, kudos for creating it.
Posted by Yvette 7 years ago
Damn. xD
Posted by Yvette 7 years ago
Haha, I feel special. Should I have sourced you? :<

Thinking of taking this, would you be alright with that?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Yvette 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:50