stop online petitions

The danger of online petitions. Have we become slaktivists?

Not a day goes by that I am not emailed a petition. I have a few friends that start one every time they get upset.

I love you, but stop.

Not only does it annoy your friends, but it is completely useless and in many cases it is a sham.

The idea of signing a petition and adding your name among hundreds or thousands seems like a great idea. Except it really means nothing. NOTHING.  The actual convenience of signing a petition online makes you passive.  Admit it, how many of those did you sign and forget about it, assuming that the people signing will do the work? You saw the petition and pounded your fist and said, “That is terrible, things must change!!”  So you signed it, and then minutes later were back to watching cat videos on youtube.

So here’s a reality check in regards to online petitions: they are meaningless in regards to actual change in civil society – what that means is, if you think a government is going to change a law or bring in a new law because you signed an online petition – you are mistaken. That is not going to happen. Why?

Most are a Sham

How many of you shared something on Facebook or signed a petition and found out later it was a lie?  There are people who make money getting likes and email addresses and there is no better way to do this then to put up a photoshopped picture of a guy abusing a dog and some made up story about corruption and abuse, followed by a plead to share and sign a petition.  I am amazed out how quickly people do this without even trying to validate the cause.  So what happens is you flood the internet and your politicians with fake and useless petitions which actually hurts the legitimate causes!  According to the Congressional Management Foundation, the House of Representatives got 99,053,399 messages via the Internet in 2004.  So thanks to the flood of these petitions, your valid petition really isn’t going to get read; usually the reason organizations try so hard to get you to sign one anyway is that politicians and advocacy groups value your email address over your voice.

Digital Signatures Are Useless
People are geographically dispersed.   When you “sign” a petition online, your IP address is used to verify your actual location where you are signing.   So, while you may very much be a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, you may be in Seoul, Korea on business when you sign it.   You feel like a hero, but your signature became useless.   It is “foreign” and therefore inadmissible.

Digital Petitions Are Not Recognized
They have no legal bearing at all in the United States, Canada or United Kingdom. They cannot be formally introduced into federal, state, provincial or municipal chambers for consideration.

But Don’t They Help With Fundraising for Government Support?
Sorry, but they don’t.  At all.   If you’re talking about getting money from the city of Topeka, Kansas and 90% of the signatures come from upstate New York, well, why would Council care?   Those signatures have no real bearing, at all, in any legal format.

Digital Signatures Are Not Legal
In addition, there is no truly accepted standard by governments anywhere in the Western world in regards to a digital signature.   Therefore they are inadmissible.   Anyone can set up multiple email addresses and pose as an individual.   It takes just a few minutes.   While you might treasure your person Gmail or Hotmail address, law makers don’t care.

Do Online Petitions Have Any Value?
Fortunately, they do.   Mostly in terms of brand reputation and management.  A number of validated IP addresses and signatures in a given country, region or city may give a company a “sense” that it has a major PR or marketing issue at hand.   They are more likely to consider public opinion in this regard as they know the issue has reached a broader audience.

So how do you make change?

If you are truly passionate about an issue, give it some respect by spending some time providing a useful solution.  Instead of just singing a useless petition or asking for someone else to, create an informational page that shows the proof validating the issue, who and what is affected, the organizations that are responsible or are already involved in the fight, and the places responsible for the act or policing the act that you are petitioning.   With just a few hours of research you can get most of this information.  There are plenty of free resources online to put this information, like a blog or a Facebook page.  Most people will get involved but you have to make it clear and easy, just like an online petition, but in this case you are giving them the tools to actually reach people who can make a difference.  Providing validation that the issue is real, is important otherwise people will ignore it.

And lastly, share it with the right people, the ones you know can actually help.

And don’t let people forget.  Don’t hound them, but keep them updated and show them that things are moving in the right direction.  This will inspire people to help more and in a more meaningful way.

Here is the last petition you should ever sign:

I will stop hiding behind a computer and instead get out there and take action.

I will become a ACTIVE activist. I will get out there and protest issues I oppose.  I will attend events and rallies that are important to me.   I will start committees and grassroots movements to incite real change and make the world a better place.

Source for some of this came from: ttp://

2 replies
  1. Tony Manna
    Tony Manna says:

    Lucy (one of the posters here) is absolutely right — online petitions *are* effective. As she suggested in her post, go to the article “Slacktivism: Why Snopes got it Wrong About Internet Petitions” at the following site,

    The article lists numerous progressive victories that have come about as a result of online petitions — most recently the crucial part online petitions played in the net neutrality victory a few weeks ago — plus the “now-dead” Comcast-Time Warner merger, a merger which at first looked like a slam dunk for Comcast.

  2. lucy
    lucy says:

    this page is full of shit. - shows that laws have been changed because of online petitions.

    do your research.


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