Change.org is a petition website operated by for-profit Change.org, Inc., an American certified B corporation which claims to have over 240 million users and hosts sponsored campaigns for organizations. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, California. The website serves to facilitate petitions by the general public.
The Change.org logo
A screenshot of a 2014 petition
Type of site
|Founded||February 7, 2007|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|Key people||Ben Rattray|
(President and COO)
Previously corporations including Virgin America, and organizations such as Amnesty International and the Humane Society, paid the site to host and promote their petitions. Change.org's stated mission is to "empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see." Popular topics of Change.org petitions are economic and criminal justice, human rights, education, environmental protection, animals rights, health, and sustainable food.
Change.org was launched in 2007 by current chief executive Ben Rattray, with the support of founding chief technology officer Mark Dimas, Darren Haas, and Adam Cheyer. As of February 2012, the site had 100 employees with offices on four continents. By the end of 2012, Rattray stated "he plans to have offices in 20 countries and to operate in several more languages, including Arabic and Chinese." In May 2013, the company announced a $15 million round of investment led by Omidyar Network and said it has 170 staff members in 18 countries.
In 2011, Change.org claimed it was the subject of a distributed denial of service attack by "Chinese hackers", and that the alleged attack was apparently related to its petition to the Chinese government to release artist Ai Weiwei. In 2011, there was a proposal to merge the Spanish-speaking counterpart website Actuable into Change.org. It took place in 2012 when they approved the voluntary union of Actuable users into the Change.org platform.
In 2012, Arizona State University decided to block access to Change.org in response to a petition created by student Eric Haywood protesting "rising tuition costs at the school". University officials claimed that "Change.org is a spam site" and the blocking was conducted "to protect the use of our limited and valuable network resources for legitimate academic, research, and administrative uses".
It was reported on April 5, 2012, that Change.org hit 10 million members, and was the fastest-growing social action platform on the web. At that time, they were receiving 500 new petitions per day. On May 13, 2012, The Guardian, BBC News and other sources reported that Change.org would launch a UK-specific platform for petitions, placing Change.org in competition with 38 Degrees, a British not-for-profit political-activism organization.
An August 2013 Fast Company's article reported that Change.org would soon begin featuring petition recipients, saying, "For the first time, companies will be able to post a public response to any given petition (currently, they can only respond to the person who started the campaign). They will also be able to create their own Decision Maker page, which will show all petitions against them, the number of signatures gathered, and their statuses." In summer 2017, a petition on change.org called for /r/incels (incel named after an abbreviation for "involuntary celibate") to be banned for inciting violence against women.
In May 2016, Dilma’s impeachment request, with #impeachemtjá!, got 2.216.562 signatures.
On December 2, 2019, a petition calling attention to a heinous act of animal cruelty was started. It gained 5,000 signatures in 4 hours, 72,000 in 10 hours, and 100,000 in 11 hours. In its 13th hour, it reached 145,000 signatures.
In December 2011, a fourth-grade class in Brookline, Massachusetts, launched the "Lorax Petition Project" through Change.org requesting Universal Studios to include more of an environmental message on its website and trailer for its upcoming film, The Lorax, a classic Dr. Seuss children's story. The website and trailer lacked the important message from the book, "to help the environment". The petition collected over 57,000 signatures, and on January 26, 2012, the studio updated the website "with the environmental message the kids had requested".
On the morning of February 2, 2012, Stef Gray, a 23-year-old graduate in New York, held a news conference at the Washington offices of Sallie Mae where she presented the results of her Change.org, Sallie Mae, the "nation's largest private student-loan provider" petition, which had received about 77,000 signers. That afternoon the company changed its forbearance fee policy.
In November 2013, someone calling himself "John Doe" of Arlington, Texas launched a petition against changes made to the YouTube commenting system by Google. The changes force YouTube users to create an account on Google+ and also removes the "reply" mechanism on comments unless they were posted on Google+. This petition received over 100,000 signatures in less than a week, and over 200,000 within two weeks. The petition garnered more than 241,000 signatures, but failed to change Google's stance on the matter. However, the changes to YouTube did not have the intended effect – namely, increasing spam instead of curbing it – and in mid-2015, the commenting system was altered to allow users to post comments without signing into Google+.
In November 2013, Aaron Thompson from Tuscaloosa, Alabama started a petition, directed at Seth MacFarlane to bring back Brian Griffin on the TV series Family Guy, after he was briefly killed off in the Season 12 episode "Life Of Brian". Thompson's petition gained 30,000 signatures within 36 hours. The character was brought back to the show a few episodes later. However, this was not a result of the petition, as the episodes were conceived months prior.
In September 2014, Karol Wilcox of Hayti, Missouri started a petition against the planned execution of Beau, a two-and-a-half-year-old dog in Dyersburg, Tennessee, for allegedly killing a duck on his owner's property. By November, this petition had gained over 540,000 signatures. The petition worked and the dog was spared.
After the 2016 United States presidential election, in which Donald Trump was declared President-elect of the United States, there were mass protests. As part of these protests, one California man started a change.org petition on November 10, 2016, which called for electors in states that Trump won to become faithless electors and cast their vote for Hillary Clinton instead at state Electoral College meetings. The petition acquired over 4 million signatures by November 14, 2016, only 4 days after it started. By November 23, 2016, it had gotten 4.5 million signatures. The petition ultimately failed as, on December 19, 2016, Trump officially gained the presidency with 304 electors. The petition closed with 4.9 million signatures, the highest in change.org history, until March 5, 2019, when it was surpassed by a petition opposing the Article 13 of the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.
On November 3, 2017, following sexual assault claims made against actor Kevin Spacey, Netflix fired the actor from, and stalled the production of, the sixth and final season of the television series in which Spacey had starred in on the network, House of Cards. Following Spacey's dismissal, a petition created on November 2, 2017, calling for Spacey to be replaced by actor Kevin James as a post-plastic surgery Frank Underwood began gaining a rapid number of supporters; this petition has gained media notability since its inception, gaining 50,000 supporters within eight days.
In wake of the Logan Paul suicide video controversy, user "... - .- -.-- .- .-.. .. ...- ." ("stayalive" in Morse code) created a petition entitled “Delete Logan Paul’s YouTube Channel", having received more than 520,000 signatures as of 15 January 2018. While numerous other petitions have been created for the same purpose, none have received as much attention.
In December 2018, user Israel Colunga started a petition to have the song "Sweet Victory" played during the half-time at the Super Bowl LIII in February 2019 as a tribute to the recently deceased creator of the series SpongeBob SquarePants, Stephen Hillenburg. Over 1.2 million signatures were achieved, prompting the National Football League to announce that SpongeBob would be associated with the half-time show, as well as Rodger Bumpass, voice of Squidward Tentacles on the show. Sure enough, a short clip of Squidward did appear on the half-time, as well as a clip from the episode "Band Geeks" of the opening fanfare to "Sweet Victory". However, after the fanfare, Maroon 5 then appeared on-screen as they performed the song "Sicko Mode", angering many of the people who'd signed the petition.
On June 25, 2019, YouTuber Etika (streamer) was confirmed dead by New York City Police Department and his "dying wish" was to be buried outside of YouTubes headquarters in San Bruno, California with a gravestone reading "No Bitch Niggas" A petition has since started to make this happen. It has gained 1,400,000 signatures in just 13 hours. Another petition started to have YouTube restore Etika's main channel and original suicidal video to remember his legacy. The petition got 350,000 signatures in 13 hours.
On July 14, 2019, an online petition titled "The Immediate Halt to the Construction of the TMT Telescope" was posted on Change.org in protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope. The online petition has currently gathered over 278,057 signatures worldwide.
On 10 March 2015, the political blogger Guido Fawkes, whose real name is Paul Staines, started a petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson, BBC co-host of TV series Top Gear. This followed the BBC's decision to suspend him over a "fracas" involving a producer on the show. The petition gained over 500,000 signatures within 24 hours, making it the fastest growing petition to date for the site, while having the servers at Change.org in the UK regularly become unresponsive due to the high demand. It had gained over 1,000,000 signatures by 20 March 2015 and it was delivered to the BBC.
In August 2014, Erica Perry from Vancouver, BC, started a petition asking Centerplate, a large food and beverage corporation serving entertainment venues in North America and the UK, to fire its then-CEO Desmond "Des" Hague after the public release of security camera footage allegedly showing Hague abusing a young Doberman Pinscher in an elevator. In response to Centerplate not taking action after the incident other than releasing a statement of apology from Hague, and an agreement by Hague to commit to perform certain charitable acts, the petition called for Centerplate to fire Hague. On September 2, 2014, after the petition had received over 190,000 signatures, Hague resigned from his position as CEO of Centerplate.
On April 29, 2018, two nights after the release of Avengers: Infinity War, Ryan Leger from Bolton, Ontario started a petition for Marvel Studios to extend Mark Ruffalo's contract for him to appear in an Incredible Hulk 2 and for Universal Pictures to let Disney have the distribution rights to any potential post-Avengers 4 Hulk films and Disney, in return, give Universal, for each, a marquee credit (including placement of the studio's opening logo) and 8-9% of the profits as they have for Paramount Pictures with The Avengers and Iron Man 3.
In February 2016, 50 petitions have exceeded 100,000 signatories. A petition against the "Loi El Khomri", a labor law project by the French Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri has over 1 million signatures.
In 2018 an anonymous creator of a Facebook community built on hatred for people riding bikes started a Change.org anti-cycling petition that has grown in a short time to reach over 100,000 signatures. Allegedly, there is evidence many of the names on the petition are fake.
In 2019, a petition directed towards the Australian government to remove Senator Fraser Anning from the Australian Federal Parliament after his comments on the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. Anning blamed immigration laws, the victims and heightening fears of Muslims for the attack. The petition (as at 10:11 AM UTC on 24 March 2019) has 1,418,105 signatures, making it one of the second most signed petitions on Change.org, and the highest concerning Australian affairs.
After two earthquakes hit Central Mexico on September 7th and September 19th, 2017, there were different petitions to force the "Instituto Nacional Electoral" (National Electoral Institute), the Mexican Senate, and President Enrique Peña Nieto to donate most or all of the money destined for the upcoming 2018 general elections be redirected to victims of the natural disaster in Mexico City and neighbor states of Morelos, Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Puebla. All petitions together sum the number of more than 3 million signatures.
Change.org members contribute monthly to sustain the technology and the small teams of campaigners who coach and support petition starters. The majority of the company's revenue is advertising - individuals and organisations who start or sign petitions then chip in to promote those petitions to other site visitors.
To date, Change.org has raised $50 million to fuel its growth from mission-aligned investors in business, technology and the media. In 2017 an investment round driven by Reid Hoffman helped drive the shift to the current business model.
The website previously made revenue by running advertisements called sponsored campaigns for advocacy organizations such as Amnesty International and list-building services to partner organizations. In May 2013 the website started "crowd-promoted petitions" that allowed a signatory to promote the petition by paying $5 to $1000 at the final stage of petition signing.
In 2018, Anne Savage, the CEO of Bicycle Queensland, claimed that a massive Australian–based anti-cycling petition on Change.org was full of false names. She said Bicycle Queensland had received information that many of the names were created by electronic “bots”. A spokesperson for Change.org denied that the signatures were fake, saying that the organisation's engineering team had double-checked the petition and confirmed they had not detected any unusual activity.
Visibility of personal information
Under certain conditions, signatures and other private information including email addresses can be found by search engines. Change.org operates a system for signature hiding, which works only if the user has an account on Change.org. Conversely, the platform has been criticized for not providing enough information on who has signed a petition; for instance a means of verifying that a petition protesting a politician has been signed by his or her constituents or that the signatures are genuine at all.
There has been debate and criticism around the fact that Change.org is a for-profit business despite using the .org domain suffix rather than the commercial .com. The site has been accused of fooling its users and hiding the fact that it is "a for-profit entity that has an economic incentive to get people to sign petitions".
Change.org is being deliberately deceitful through the use of the change.org name. I'd suspect that the average change.org user does not know that Change.org is a for-profit corporation, and that the corporation plans on using the contact information being provided to them to earn revenue.
Change.org spokesperson Charlotte Hill countered this criticism in a September 2013 article in Wired, saying, "We are a mission-driven social enterprise, and while we bring in revenue, we reinvest 100% of that revenue back into our mission of empowering ordinary people. It's not just that we're not yet making a profit – it's that we are decidedly not for-profit."
In 2012, the site dropped most of the restrictions it previously placed on paid content. Internal documents began referring to "clients" and "partners" as "advertisers" and stated that "only advertisers strictly identified as 'hate groups' are to be banned." As a result, Change.org was accused of encouraging astroturfing and abandoning the progressive user base from which it initially gained traction. Additional controversy arose when the employee who initially leaked the documents was fired. Of the users who lost interest in the site after this change, a number of them expressed difficulty in being removed from Change.org mailing lists.
Selling of personal data
Use for trending topics
Topics for Change.org petitions have grown to include disagreement with the Academy Awards and removing milk from certain types of coffee. The authors of these petitions have been criticized for focusing on first world problems. Further debate over the content of petitions came in November 2014 when Martin Daubney called some of them "bizarre" and stated that the site was being used to promote censorship. In response, the Change.org communication director John Coventry defended the wide range of petitions, saying that "people make an informed choice in what they want to support." The following week saw criticism alleging that petitions about the media receive more attention than petitions about "saving 'actual' lives."
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