Monday, August 13, 2012

Please Support My Petition to Change is a terrific, timely idea, giving a voice to consumers and advocates like never before. It could be better, however, because its omission of two-way dialog prevents the exchange of different perspectives and allows misinformation to spread. This should be a concern to every person who cares about truth and believes in the value of dialog, but those of you responsible for managing social media for your employer should pay special attention--the day may come when you desperately want and need to engage in debate and combat inaccurate information on 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 do enough to enable all voices and facilitate informed decisions? does not permit those with contrary opinions or information to share, and I believe silencing debate in this manner reduces the power of 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: is a terrific service empowering people to transform the world, but it could do even more to achieve its goals. If 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, 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 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 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 to allow dialog, debate and diversity of opinion.

This petition supports and its goals. We can make 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 petition. If so, you may wish to furnish more information, share your organization's perspective and perhaps even correct erroneous information. As 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 to permit dialog will do so. One obvious example of how 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, 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." has been the platform for many successful efforts to change minds and behaviors, such as: 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, deprives visitors of the opportunity to see diverse perspectives. In an era of transparency and dialog, offers little of either.

A small example of how's policies provide a one-sided view can be seen in the local debate over LED signs in South Kingstown, RI. 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 petition because does not permit different perspectives. To see the other side of this debate, you must search and find the 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 provides no mechanism for dialog and different perspectives.

I reached out to 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 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's challenge to launch my own petition.

I believe the petitions on 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 petition.


Dave Smith said...

OK, but here you are using which doesn't allow an alternative view. Or, does it? I'd prefer that it be a blog with two threads and a means to vote either way, not just one way. A thread for and a thread against + voting. People could add comments to either side, but not go off on yet a third tangent. We've got to keep it simple, yet allow for differing points of view.

Dave Smith said...

Just did this - but after signing in am asked to do so again. Here goes.

You post a petition to enable comments on a site that doesn't allow comments. Say what?

But I echo your thoughts to a point. We need to be able to see both sides, but not more. You're either for or against an issue at hand - or indifferent. If you have a third view, I'd say that's indifferent. Let's allow two threads for each issue - and allow comments for and against as well as collect signatures for and against. At least that way we can see what's going on. Any petition is, by definition, one sided. you seen X number of signatures, but you don't see how many were invited but refused to sign. Doesn't give a real picture, now does it?