Change.org furnishes a way for anyone to launch a petition, encouraging others to lend their voices to worthwhile causes. A successful petition can gain traction, earn attention in the media, inspire action and create change, but does Change.org do enough to enable all voices and facilitate informed decisions? Change.org does not permit those with contrary opinions or information to share, and I believe silencing debate in this manner reduces the power of Change.org. Change.org could become even more powerful if it permitted true dialog and debate, so I launched my own petition and ask that you consider adding your name.
I think the petition speaks for itself, so here is the entire text:
Change.org is a terrific service empowering people to transform the world, but it could do even more to achieve its goals. If Change.org enabled true bilateral dialog, people could be exposed to more than one side of each issue, allowing them to make more informed decisions as to the petitions they choose to support.
In its current state, Change.org only allows one-sided arguments to be presented, furnishing no opportunity for those being petitioned or others to offer contrary opinions or information. People visiting a petition have just two choices--sign a petition or leave. Because Change.org does not allow those with differing opinions or additional information to add comments to a petition, erroneous information and unsupported assertions can go unchallenged. Without dialog and debate, people may sign petitions without having the benefit of hearing other views and weighing additional facts.
If Change.org really wishes to be a force for change, it will permit dialog. People deserve to make fully informed decisions, to have access to all perspectives and to engage not just on the petitions they support but also the ones they oppose. Please sign this petition and encourage Change.org to allow dialog, debate and diversity of opinion.
This petition supports Change.org and its goals. We can make Change.org better!.
Why might you care to support the petition? A couple of reasons are worth considering:
- If you are responsible for social media for a brand, a time may come when your employer is the target of a Change.org petition. If so, you may wish to furnish more information, share your organization's perspective and perhaps even correct erroneous information. As Change.org stands today, you are unable to do so.
- If you care about true dialog and believe that the sharing of ideas, feedback and information helps people to be thoroughly informed and take better action, then please sign my petition.
- If you wish to prevent the spread of misinformation, encouraging Change.org to permit dialog will do so. One obvious example of how Change.org can be used to disseminate inaccurate information is the petition to "Arrest and impeach Obama" for using "forged documents as proof of eligibility to be an American citizen." On the other side of the political spectrum, a petition accuses the Romney campaign of giving away items of value in exchange for votes--a violation of election law--but furnishes no evidence. These may be bad examples because they are so obviously partisan, but you can imagine how easily unfounded accusations and misleading allegations may be spread in a forum where two-way dialog is not permitted.
I want to see Change.org change, but I very much respect its mission to become "an international network of people empowered to fight for what's right locally, nationally, and globally." Change.org has been the platform for many successful efforts to change minds and behaviors, such as:
- Molly Katchpole, a 22-year-old nanny, famously launched a petition on Change.org that helped force Bank of America to reverse its decision to institute debit card fees.
- An organization supporting the right for Saudi women to drive created a petition asking Secretary of State Clinton to support their cause; shortly after the petition accumulated 10,000 signatures, Ms. Clinton publicly backed the effort.
- A petition asking JCPenney to pull an offensive T-shirt delivered the desired results in just one day.
- When a class of fourth graders noticed the web site for the upcoming movie version of "The Lorax" lacked information about trees and the environment, they reacted with a Change.org petition. Fifty-seven thousand signatures later, Universal added tips on saving trees.
- A mother who lost her two daughters in an accident caused by a faulty rental car launched a Change.org petition asking Enterprise to support legislation increasing federal oversight of safety recalls for car rental agencies. After initially balking, Enterprise changed its stance when the petition amassed 170,000 signatures.
Change.org is a powerful force for change, but could it be even more so if it allowed debate on the issues? With no way for people to offer opposing views or additional information, Change.org deprives visitors of the opportunity to see diverse perspectives. In an era of transparency and dialog, Change.org offers little of either.
A small example of how Change.org's policies provide a one-sided view can be seen in the local debate over LED signs in South Kingstown, RI. Change.org features a petition urging people to "Keep the ban on LED signs in South Kingstown." The petitioner notes, "These signs are aesthetically unappealing, can cause driver distraction, and are not in line with the charm and character of South Kingstown." Meanwhile, local businesses have asked that the ban be changed, noting the signs "are more energy efficient and can cut down on light pollution because the bulbs are dimmer and directional." You will not find the local business perspective while viewing the Change.org petition because Change.org does not permit different perspectives. To see the other side of this debate, you must search and find the Patch.com article covering the local controversy.
Do the 276 signers of the LED signage petition know the concerns and facts from those on either side of the issue? Are they sufficiently informed to weigh in? Might some minds have been changed if both the pros and cons of LED signage were presented? I don't know, and neither does the South Kingstown Town Council, because Change.org provides no mechanism for dialog and different perspectives.
I reached out to Change.org sharing my opinion that facilitating two-way conversation would enhance their site. They responded, "Would you consider making a petition of your own to support your side of the argument? We generally do not allow negative comments unless someone signs a petition, but since Change.org is non-partisan, that means that if you wish, you too could create a petition so that it gets the word out to others about your side." I don't think separate, conflicting petitions are the answer--that is a shouting match, not a debate--so I took Change.org's challenge to launch my own petition.
I believe the petitions on Change.org can be even more persuasive if the site permitted a back-and-forth dialog that educated petitioners. If you agree that debate and transparency are good and advisable aspects of both social media and social action, please consider signing my Change.org petition.