Photo: Flickr/Goodnight London
Do you have friends constantly annoying you with Facebook or Change.org petitions about this cause or that?It seems impossible that hitting a Like button or adding your name to an Internet petition can possibly add up to much.
But it can.
It’s not so much the show of numbers on a petition that works but what organisers do with the names they gather. A petition can bring media exposure to a cause. That in turn draws more like-minded people to sign. Because petition sites like Change.org gather contact info and location, protesters can organise demonstrations, online and off, bringing more media attention and so on.
Change.org’s Director of organising, Amanda Kloer, sent us this list of petitions that have lead to action.
In December, Verizon announced that it would begin charging a $2 payment fee for customers who want to pay their bills online, even though the process was fully automated. Verizon customer Molly Katchpole started a petition protesting Verizon's unnecessary fee. Within hours, more than 130,000 had signed Molly's petition and media coverage went wild. In a victory for consumer power, Verizon backed down less than 24 hours after announcing the fee.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) recently became the first major industry association to drop its support for SOPA, despite the fact that they spent $190,000 lobbying the Senate to pass PIPA in just six months in 2011. ESA changed their stance after 137,000 people joined Shashank Katsurirangan's Change.org campaign calling on Electronic Arts, one of the most prominent ESA, members to oppose SOPA.
After Apple released an app from an 'ex-gay' group claiming to cure homosexuality, the company faced pressure from a Change.org petition to pull the app. More that 150,000 people supported Truth Wins Out's campaign, which sought to ban the offensive app. Eventually Apple pulled the app, saying that it 'violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.'
Hershey's finally made its first concession to start buying chocolate from suppliers that are certified for their labour practices. (Some cocoa farmers use child slave labour.) A group called Raise the Bar started a petition on Change.org which allowed it to enlist more than 50,000 helpers. The helpers flooded the company's Facebook page and created other 'brand jamming' ads. (Here are the winners of that.) This attracted the attention of an ad agency with Super Bowl connections. In the face of a Super Bowl ad about its labour practices, Hershey's finally made a concession.
PayPal India's decision to host an event celebrating 'upper-caste pride' caused outrage in the country among those working for a more egalitarian India. In less than 24 hours, more than 200 people online and offline forced PayPal India's General Manager Anupum Pahuja to apologise. He said, 'We have removed these references with immediate effect and would like to apologise to anyone who was adversely affected or hurt by the oversight.'
After the earthquake in Haiti, mobile carriers gave mobile phone donations to relief groups as soon as users texted. But after the Japanese disaster, they didn't, which meant that it took 30 to 90 days after each text was sent for the corresponding donation to reach Japan. When he learned this, Masaya Uchino created a petition that called on the mobile companies to remit donations for Japan in the same way they did for Haiti. Two weeks after the launch of the petition, which gathered 66,000 signatures, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon all agreed to pass donations immediately to Japan.