Change.org is a website that hosts public petitions, and through it, purportedly enables people to make change. The website is owned and operated by Change.org, Inc, a certified B Corporation incorporated in Delaware, whose businesses include empowering the people of the world to make changes, and constantly reminding everyone that it empowers the people of the world to make changes. Mostly the latter, though.
Change.org all began with Stanford classmates Ben Rattray and Mark Dimas. These weren't any two ordinary college students; these were two ordinary college students with a dream — a dream of a world where everyone was empowered to make changes in their communities, and where each and every person could connect with others to create progress for the better. After much deliberation, they eventually realized that the whole idea was a load of hopeless bullshit, and ended up settling for a world where lazy slobs everywhere could click their mouses and pretend they were "contributing to society". Thus, Change.org was born.
The two classmates decided to launch the website in 2007, but from the start, success didn't come easy. After its inception, the site went through multiple iterations, initially launched as social network for activism and then as a blogging platform. Neither of these strategies had any favorable results, however, as both required effort and dedication from their users. So, in 2010, Change.org transitioned into a petition website, effectively eliminating any need for effort and dedication altogether... and the site took off.
"It has always been our goal to empower anyone, anywhere, to create the changes they want to see," wrote Ben Rattray in a 2012 interview, "and the fact that Change.org is a petition site has made that possible. The power unlocked when people have the capacity to rapidly and effectively organize with others, you see, is unprecedented in human history. Also, it's kinda neat that no one has to put in any actual work or commitment, just sign their name and pretend that they've contributed to something. That sort of helps too.”
Today, according to its staff, Change.org is the "largest petition platform" in the world, with "millions of users", "billions of petitions", and "gazillions of statements about ‘empowering’ people". Change.org also once bragged that it had the "most exaggerated statistics of any petition website", but it has since withdrawn that statistic, as it was simply not exaggerated enough.
In late 2010, an anonymous user created a petition titled 'Local government: stop whatever you're doing. I don't know what it is, but I'm already objected to it.' The petition made a landmark victory, gaining over seven hundred signatures. "I didn't really have much of a reason for creating it," stated the petition's creator, "but there seems to be a petition against everything the government does these days… so I guess I just wanted to join the bandwagon."
In early 2012, an American fourth-grade class launched a petition aimed at Universal Studios, requesting them to include more of an overbearing environmental message on their website for their upcoming movie The Lorax. The petition collected over 57,000 signatures, and in response, Universal Studios updated their website "with the environmental message the little brats had requested." It was a pity that the message was completely ignored by everyone who ever saw it, similar to every single environmental message ever.
In 2012, a German university student started a petition to allow people to freely copy music off YouTube, a right which had recently been called to question by Google, who were afraid that they might get slightly less super-rich if these terrible crimes continued. The petition was particularly notable as it garnered the most signatures ever on the site with over 4.3 million supporters, and (more importantly) it’s one of the few petitions I can’t write a condescending joke about. It’s just that flipping awesome.
Many of Change.org's petitions also focus on human rights, or important environmental issues, such as ‘Help save an endangered species on the other side of the world that you’ve never heard of’ and ‘Help us stop some company… chopping down trees… somewhere. Look, you’ll feel guilty if you don’t’. The rest are all petitions that no one gives a damn about, including pleas to un-cancel TV shows, hilarious "joke" petitions about toasters, and anything to do with the environment.
Petition creation tools
Change.org's method for petition creation is based on three simple, easy steps.
- Starting the petition – A campaigner starts a Change.org petition by filling out three questions, after which they can edit their petitions' title and information, categorize it, and upload images and videos for "maximum effectiveness". Which, effectiveness-wise, still comes up short of... well... useless.
- Promoting the petition – Now that the petition is created, it's time for the campaigner to show that their issue is important to others as well, which is best achieved by spamming it to every corner of the internet. Change.org allows one to easily make Twitter updates, fill stranger's e-mail trash folders with guilt-inflicting pleas for support, or share their endeavor on Facebook, where it will be ignored and quickly forgotten in favor of the most recent meme page that happens to be updating.
- Talking to your decision maker – Once the petition has reached its signature goal (if it ever does), now all that is needed is for the petition creator to take that list of names and use to bend other people to their will. And just like that, along with thousands of others before them, they've successfully completed a petition and have been empowered to make the changes they want to see. Or, along with thousands of others before them, they've lost due to lack of support and have been empowered to waste months of their time.
There has been much debate and criticism over the fact that Change.org is a for-profit business, rather than actual organization — the expected users of that '.org' thing on the end of its web address.
|“||Change.org is being deliberately deceitful through the use of the change.org name. I'd suspect that the average change.org user doesn't even 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. They're evil, I tell you. EVIL! BURN THEM AT THE STAKE!!||”|
— Clay Johnson
Change.org itself has defended its controversial name, stating that the '.org' suffix is how they're recognized, and that their primary interests have always been in the people and not in making themselves filthy rich. Further, the site has also had its own share of supporters, who remain strong that Change.org has always been there for the good of the people.
|“||I don't understand how anybody could say such mean things about Change.org — it's empowering people everywhere to create the changes they want to see! Well, maybe I haven't seen any evidence for that claim... but they paste it all over their website, and in every comment they make. So it must be true!||”|
— Some gullible person
- No, I don't know what that means either.
- They aren't real people...
- But who cares? It's MAXIMUM!
- That's just a bonus.