Online petitions are not worth a hill of beans. Discuss

Online Petitions

Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

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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