Online petitions are not worth a hill of beans. Discuss

Online Petitions

All over the internet, on petition websites and on social media sites there are petitions and protests. Hundreds of thousands of signatures are collected. Millions of people “like” the FB protest pages.

Some of the best petitions are against animal cruelty, illegal international trade in wildlife which is worth billions every year, illegal behavior by police and so on.

Do the wildlife smugglers give a damn? Are the police concerned by these petitions? Are governments worried? No.

The weakness with online petitions is that they are too cosy and comfortable for the people who sign them. For a protest to carry weight it has to be uncomfortable for the protestors. It has to be on the street and in your face. There has to be some danger and it has to be uncomfortable for the people who are doing the wrong, the subject matter of the protest.

Sometimes I think that online petitions are just a way for people to let off steam. They allow people to express themselves. It stops there, though.

The US government say that when an online petition to their website reaches 100,000 signatures they will look at it and consider it. Big deal. Thanks, but don’t expect there to be any change. There is a huge amount of arrogance in the upper echelons of government and big business.

A typical example of an online petition is the one demanding that the police officer who shot Max, a German shepherd, should be fired. You can see the video here. There are 16,000 signatures including mine and if we are brutally honest, we have all wasted our time.

The primary purpose for creating an online petition website is to make money and not to right wrongs. They carry advertising and some get millions of visits every month. There is quite a lot of money to be made by petition website owners.

Sometimes there is no substitute for the physical presence of the people who wish to make their voices heard. Signing a petition online is like dropping a penny into the ocean. Even when they might have some sort of immediate impact lasting a few days, within a week or so they have been shunted into oblivion by the flood of new petitions.

Memories are short on the internet. Most webpages have short lifespans. Certainly in the case of a petition which is about a news item the effective lifespan is very short. It can have a modest impact over the early days and then it quietly fades away making room for the next batch that have an equally short life.

Online petitions are like moths. They burst out of their cocoon, fly around for a few weeks and die.

Photo by khasan

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Online petitions are not worth a hill of beans. Discuss — 18 Comments

  1. They’re not really considered legit because they can be faked. Any one of us can pull out our computer address book with email addresses and collect tons of signatures.

    I’ve always heard government wants hand signed signatures with lots of different handwriting and with a legal mailing address included. I may post links to online petitions but I don’t go in and sign them because they mean nothing. Look how many signed for Barry Accorti to be fired. Didn’t do a bit of good.

    Like you said Michael. In your face someone making an effort is what they look for.

    • Thanks Elisa. I didn’t realise that there was a certain amount of fakery going on. I am ready for some in-your-face protesting. I want a good cause and want to march. That is a better way to express anger against animal cruelty than clicking a mouse.

  2. You’re probably quite right Michael, it’s just that if you’re sitting at your PC reading about something happening thousands of miles away that’s sheer cruelty makes you want to hit someone all you can do is add your name to a protest, it at least feels as though you’ve done something, however small, to acknowledge the victim’s suffering.

    • Agreed. It does allow you to express your feelings but to be honest online petitions are almost only about that. They are a way of testing people’s views almost like a poll. I might even check out some petitions to do just that – see where the strength of idea and attitudes stands.

  3. Michael, i very much agree with you that “PHYSICAL PRESENCE” is very essential to create a awareness or a protest against any subject or institution.”On-Line Petitions” just create an awareness of the subject and if in a large number would definitely create a few ripples amongst the authorities concerned, especially people in important positions of political power or commercial enterprises. There are numerous “Animal Rights ” petitions on the internet and i doubt if most even get noticed let alone creating political or economic ripples.The “Old traditional way” of protest or awareness is still in vogue,people or rights activists amassing in large numbers to voice their opinions.Its very easy to sit in the comforts of a office, home or institution and just “Mouse click” a petition on your computer, hence the effect is also lackluster unless a real mega on-line protest as has been a few political revolutions due to “F.B(facebook)” networking. As far as “Animal Rights and Nature” is concerned i feel that personal protests are important to create awareness.Visit a national park for wild-life protection causes, plant trees personally, visit animal hospitals and animal shelters personally and speak to the veterinarians. According to me this is the surest way of getting a hands -on experience as well as a opinion of nature and wild-life conservation.

    • Thoroughly agree with you Rudolph. The more one puts in and the harder it is, the more you get out of it. Organising on street protests takes time and effort, clicking a mouse to sign a petition takes about 10 seconds with zero effort. What you put in you get out.

      I would like to see more marches against animal abuse. Nearly all protests are to do with poor politics (people).

      • Even if nothing happens, someone somewhere who is the subject of it learns something new – that thousands of people are angry about it, and even if nothing happens they still know it because they were presented with it. I think it’s good to sign for that simple reason.

          • Here’s one for you Marc:
            I know a man and his name is Jim
            I love to throw tomatoes at him
            Tomatoes are soft and don’t hurt the skin
            These ones do as they are still in the tin.

            Sorry I don’t know one about beans lol

        • Good point. There is something in it that is good and that should be recognised but I doubt whether they change things. Perhaps they chip away at attitudes so over the very long term they may help to change things but my personal view is no, they don’t.

          Online petition sites are an alternative version to online forums, I feel. The owners of the site know they will get a decent amount of hits.

  4. Well look what happened to the on-line petition I started, to ban declawing, it vanished into the blue beyond! We had well over 4.000 signatures from all over the world, including many vets and celebrities, with comments too.
    The web site went down and all we could salvage was the signatures, the addresses and comments were lost. One of the stalwart anti declaws in the USA asked if she could have it, I agreed and that’s the last I heard.
    But it was worth the hours of work because it did do a little bit of good before that when it was mentioned at the meetings of the Californian cities who wanted to ban declawing….and they did!
    The only way to get anything changed is by ‘people power’ like you say Michael, marching on the streets.
    If the 400 + people who promised to attend the anti declaw protest you set up at St Louis had kept their promise it would have made a HUGE impact! Only a few from START turned up, what a waste of a chance 🙁
    That’s what I don’t understand about Americans, why are there are not enough with the passion to get out there on the streets, protest, educate, get paper petitions signed!
    Like I say only ‘people power’ can change things!
    But even here people are now not committed so much, they are becoming beaten down by the government. I went to a protest about closing the last Bank in our town, only 30 of us turned up (Babz couldn’t get off work) so the Bank closed as it looked like not many cared.
    There must be more than you and Babz and I ready to march Michael!

    • Great that makes two people to march ; ) You made a good point. People who spend a lot of time setting up petitions and signing them are at the mercy of the website’s owner. If he or she is not making enough money form advertising he shuts it down. There is no altruism going on. For the website owners it is about commerce, making profit and that is a weakness in the system of online petition sites.

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