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Time to BOYCOTT , EXPOSED once again #socialmedia

I have exposed change .org two years back and every now and then the true colours are shown in their contradictory campaigns. Below is information why, after hosting more then 250 petitions i  have boycotted


What’s Changing At



In its community guidelines “Don’ts” list, — the online petition company — makes clear that hate speech against any group is strictly prohibited.

“We’re fans of free speech, but we don’t allow hate speech,” the site informs users, defining it as “typically the advocacy of beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people based on characteristics such as their age, color, disability, ethnic origin, gender identity, nationality, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, medical condition, or veteran status.”

So when a user from Fort Worth, Texasposted a petition three weeks ago demanding that Caitlyn Jenner be stripped of her 1976 Olympic gold medal — based on the user’s conclusion that if “she has always believed herself to be truly female,” she “therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men’s sports and vice versa,” — users might easily have assumed the petition would be immediately taken down.

More than 15,000 signatures and an International Olympic Committee response later, the petition remains on the site. Weeks after it was first posted, the company appended a note to the petition affirming that while it had “received a high number of user flags,” the system used by the public to alert the company to potential Terms of Service violations, “ is an open platform and doesn’t endorse any petitions.”



The same company guidelines also explicitly state that the site will not “tolerate abuse, stalking, threats, trolling, or any form of bullying.” So, it seemed obvious that when ThinkProgress discovered an 11-month old petition from a Latvian user urging a Sint Maarten-based online forum for computer game hackers to ban a user because “he’s a homosexual,” it would have to go.

But nearly a week after ThinkProgress flagged the petition as inappropriate, relying on the company’s community policing process, the petition remained active and open. It was only removed after a media inquiry was sent to the company asking about this specific petition and a series of other petitions that appeared to violate the site’s terms of service.

Muslims, undocumented immigrants, LGBT people, people who may be HIV positive, and women who have reported sexual assaults have also faced the sort of hate speech and bullying the site claims to prohibit. At least one petition attacking each of those groups remained on the site even after being brought to the company’s attention. And just last week, in the wake of a racially motivated mass murder at a historically black church in Charleston, a user from Pennsylvania launched a petition defending the flying of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina capitol.



As the nation and Internet grapple with questions about how to balance free speech with protecting privacy and guarding against online bullying and harassment, presents an interesting case study. Like YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and other Internet fora, faces daily decisions on what content to permit and what content to remove. But because of its evolution from progressive platform to open petition site, the company has faced some unique challenges as it grapples with the definition of “hate speech” — and several minority group activists and former employees have not been happy with the results.

‘A Business Model For Social Good’

The presence of these right-wing-attack petitions may come as a surprise to some users who share acommonmisconception that is a progressive non-profit website. While the name and URL give the impression of being a non-profit, it is not.

“We are social enterprise and that’s because we have an ambitious mission — to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see — and to scale that mission, we need a sustainable business model. For the foreseeable future, all of our revenue will be reinvested in the company,” a company spokeswoman explained to ThinkProgress, but the company hopes to someday turn a profit for its investors.

The company plays up its status as a certified B Corporation — a distinction given to companies that “meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency — and claims to utilize “a business model for social good.”

Originally, the site had a progressive aim. In 2012 came under fire from the AFL-CIOfor promoting anti-union petitions for for two education reform organizations: Stand for Childrenand StudentsFirst. According to its IRS filings, StudentsFirst — the group created by former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee — paid more than $1.6 million for “membership services” in fiscal year 2012-2013. After the relationship came to light, said it had “listened closely to the community of users, who have voiced their concerns in response to this decision” and decided to end its work for both groups.

Soon after, leaked internal memos revealed that the company, which once accepted advertisements only from progressive organizations that share the company’s values and worldview, had decided to adopt an “open advertising policy in which determinations about which advertisements we’ll accept are based on the content of the ad, not the group doing the advertising.” That meant the site would now accept ads, and money, from “organizations that represent all points of view, including those with which [’s leaders] personally (and strongly) disagree.”

Company founder and CEO Ben Rattray defended the changes, writing at the Huffington Post: “If we weren’t open to everyone, and if we limited access based on a set of political viewpoints, we would undercut the power of our petition creators and users. We would be perceived as an advocacy group ourselves, and the media and decision makers would often typecast petition creators as players in our supposed issue agenda, rather than the independent agents of change they are.”

Both StudentsFirst and Stand for Children returned to the fold as customers.

Now free to market its services to political forces of all stripes, has taken on some very conservative clients and is actively seeking to expand its reach into those circles, to boost its revenue from the right half of the political sphere. The anti-LGBTpro-climate denial Independent Journal Review is a current sponsor, encouraging petition signers who believe in “common sense conservative news” to register with them. hastakenmore than $108,000 over the past year and a half to expand the supporter lists of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the campaign arm of the House Republicans majority, according to its filings with the Federal Election Commission.

ChangeORg IJR conserative news


An open “director of business development – DC” position currently advertised on the company’s site seeks someone to “sell’s advertising and list-building services to industry-leading organizations across the country that focus on issues that resonate with conservative Americans … tap into and grow your existing networks of center-right political campaigns and issue groups in the US to introduce them to,” and “establish relationships with leading consulting, fundraising, and digital marketing firms on the center/right side of the aisle.”

Kini Schoop, director of media relations for, told ThinkProgress in an email, “we are not a progressive platform. We are an open platform for people with diverse perspectives to use for change.”

Users who sign liberal-themed petitions allow the company to market itself to progressive organizations as a good way to reach like-minded members — and the same is true for those on the right. “If you were to use to sign mostly progressive petitions,” Schoop explained, “then you are also more likely to see sponsored petitions from [organizations] that reflect that view. Users who are signing more conservative petitions, are more likely to see a sponsored petition from an organization like the NRCC.”

An Open Internet

David Sullivan is policy and communications director for the Global Network Initiative, a non-profit organization that works to support “freedom of expression and privacy in information and communications technology.”

With the increased attention on the damaging effects of online hate speech, Sullivan said in an email, “Online platforms for user-generated content face difficult dilemmas supporting free expression and combating online harassment, challenges which are multiplied many times over when operating internationally.” To deal with the difficult balance, he noted, “companies can benefit from working closely with human rights organizations to ensure that there is adequate oversight and safeguards in their systems.”

The questions of how to handle hate speech are not unique to Sites like YouTube also rely on user policing — but this approach requires significant resources to review flagged content. YouTube says it has staffers doing this 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so it can quickly remove any inappropriate content.

Other more neutral platforms, like Twitter, prohibit illegal activities but allow hate speech. Recently, Twitter changed its violent threats policy to make clear that threats of violence against others and the promotion of violence against others are prohibited (previously it had only barred “direct, specific threats of violence against others”). Last month, Twitter permanently suspended a user described by the Washington Post as “one of the Internet’s most infamous trolls,” after he tweeted seeking funds to help “take out” a civil rights activist.

And even beyond harassment, online companies each take varying approaches as to how they moderate user content.

Facebook is well known for having an aggressive moderation system. Last year, it had to apologize to drag queens and other members of the LGBT community who were suspended due to a strict “real name” policy. On the other hand, a group of users of Reddit — a site famous for supporting almost any type of speech — left the site earlier this year, claiming censorship after some moderators deleted threads they considered to be harassment.



Other sites, especially in the petition space, are less permissive. The progressive non-profit MoveOn operates Petitions, a similar platform but exclusively for progressive causes. Nick Berning,’s communications director, told ThinkProgress in an email that if a similar anti-LGBT petition were to be posted on MoveOn Petitions and brought to their attention, “we’d take it down immediately, because it would be inconsistent with our community’s values and violate our Terms of Service.”

Berning observed that “the bigger distinction between Change and MoveOn isn’t in what we take down — it’s what we choose to promote. MoveOn Petitions is an explicitly progressive platform, and we only solicit and promote (via things like emails to members, expert campaign support, etc.) progressive petition campaigns.” His organization, therefore, “would never solicit, lean into, or amplify a right-wing petition. on the other hand is a for-profit that explicitly markets itself to conservatives and doesn’t just host right-wing petitions, it actively promotes them. It is a fundamentally different approach.”

Credo Mobilize, another progressive petition site operated by the progressive CREDO Mobile company, says it expects it will “probably see campaigns we don’t agree with and campaigns that might seem a bit random,” but that it will “work hard to disable campaigns that come to our attention and are defamatory, discriminatory or illegal.” As Murshed Zaheed, Credo’s deputy political director, explained in an email, “whenever we see campaigns that use ‘hate speech,’ they are immediately marked as inappropriate and suppressed from the platform.” He added that he and other colleagues “are personally looking over new petitions every morning,” and usually remove inappropriate petitions “right away.”

Todd Heywood, a contractor back when the company was officially progressive, believes the company’s evolution toward the “open platform” model has led some progressives to MoveOn and CREDO — a move he fears has created a segmenting that may dilute the strength of the message. “When you spread out the petitions over three agencies instead of one, you dilute your reach and you dilute your message. You’ll have more petitions, but you’ll have less participation. It will become less effective as a tool — and an organizing tool in particular — because people won’t have this one-stop shop.”

But for some groups on the left, that’s a risk they are willing to take. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told ThinkProgress in an email: “There are many other vendors and partners who provide the same services as, and that are also aligned with our values and goals. In this case, that allows us to keep our business with firms that aren’t working to undermine our members and the communities they serve.”

‘Making Money Off The Backs Of The LGBT Community’

The international attention the anti-Jenner petition garnered was enough to draw a response from the International Olympic Committee: A statement from its communications director affirming that “Bruce Jenner won his [sic] gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games and there is no issue for the IOC.” This response generated even more attention and widespread internationalnewscoverage.

Though the petition is carefully worded to not appear overtly anti-trans, going so far as to include “congratulations to Ms. Jenner for her courage,” LGBT rights activists said its plea for Jenner to “support the transgender community by giving up the medals earned by competing against the wrong gender” seemsdesigned as an attack on both Jenner and the transgender community.

One such activist is Michael Rogers, the executive director of Netroots Connect (a conference for LGBT media and activists). He told ThinkProgress that for several years he has observed that a large number of anti-LGBT petitions have been posted on and not removed, even after the company was alerted to them. And he believes the company’s business model relies on these petitions, but tries to hide it.

Rogers noted that violence against transgender people is an ongoing problem and expressed concern that anti-trans petitions could contribute to a hostile climate.

As a test, Rogers explained, he created a petition some time ago calling for one of the most extreme anti-trans policy ideas he could come up with. “I put up a petition demanding that trans people put up photos in their neighborhood if they planned on transitioning for a month before hand, with an artist rendering of what they planned to look like,” he recalled, and said he alerted company employees that it was online. “They wouldn’t take it down,” Rogers said, and, ultimately “I had to take it down myself.”

Brianna Cayo-Cotter, head of global communications for said in email, “We have no record of this alleged petition and want to highlight that users do not have the ability to delete petitions without assistance from our help desk. We have alerted ThinkProgress to the inaccuracies of this account, and are disappointed an unverified claim remains on record.”

Less preposterous (but still anti-LGBT) sentiments have also been evident in large petitions to support anti-LGBT activists like Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and the DuggarFamily of 19 Kids and Counting.

Rogers noted that when he created a similarly outrageous test petition — a demand for the Supreme Court to reverse Loving v. Virginia (the 1966 case that overturned state laws banning interracial marriage) — deleted it almost immediately. But a ThinkProgress review of currently active and closed but still visible petitions found one urging someone to “stop being a [racial slur]” and another demanding the deportation of “illegals” who it claims are spreading cholera and tuberculosis in the United States.



The apparent relative tolerance for hateful petitions, Rogers says, “shows how preposterous their moneymaking model is. Make no mistake — they depend on the Duck Dynasties and the [Jim] Bob and Michelle Duggars of this world to pay their staff.”

Once the company reviews flagged content, not all users are happy with what the company deems acceptable. After reviewing them for Terms of Service violations following ThinkProgress inquiries, allowed these other campaigns, that could be deemed hate speech, to remain active:

Demanding that President Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launch an investigation into “whether Islam is antithetical to Human Rights. The petition compares Islam to Nazism and warns: “The roots of the violence and persecution of other religions which we see both today, and in the history of the belief, are there plainly in the Koran and especially the Hadith or life of Muhammad.”

Opposing drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. The petition’s 1,000-plus signers agreed that “What should be done is to make illegals follow the laws like everyone else and become a citizen. A license is a privelege [sic] and should be earned. We continue to give all kinds of benefits to people living here illegally and it needs to stop. Do not continue to reward illegal activity.” The petition is now closed but still online.

Promoting the ex-gay movement. More than 2,800 users demand that President Obama meet with “those of us who have left the homosexual lifestyle” as he has with “countless people who are participating in the homosexual lifestyle.”

Demanding legal action against a woman who reported being sexually assaulted. The author opined that Columbia University anti-rape activist Emma Sulkowicz had “no evidence” to back up her allegations and claimed that “new evidence has surfaced [that] she lied about the raped [sic].” The petition demands “she be pressed charges [sic] for her defamation.”

A former staffer told ThinkProgress that in the past, a petition like the anti-Jenner one would most likely have been removed by a team of staffers that reviewed each day’s new petitions for hate speech. The staffer, who asked not to be identified as his current employer did not authorize him to speak on the record, said it is “reasonable to assume” that the identities of the people who signed the Jenner petition and those like it will be used to help market the site to conservative businesses.

The former staffer also noted that while claims to be an open platform where grassroots activists create petitions, during his tenure there, “the biggest campaigns didn’t just happen — they were engineered internally, with finding a petition starter, creating a story for the media about how this perfect person just happened to show up to start a campaign about an issue they just happened to be the perfect person for.” As such, according to this former employee, the company played a large editorializing role beyond just allowing an open platform — and may well do the same on behalf of the conservative organizations the company is now actively recruiting.’s director of policy, Sunita Bose, told ThinkProgress that she does not see a contradiction between being an open platform and having some staff involvement with some of the campaigns. In a follow-up email, she added: “Like all open platforms, we feature some content — that’s why you receive emails from YouTube with videos they think you may be interested in. We have a very small campaigns team that supports a small proportion of petitions with particularly compelling stories we think will resonate with our users, and other people. We have policies with ethical standards, including things like fact checking, around the campaigns we promote.”

Where Is The Line?

In addition to being a former contractor, Todd Heywood is a freelance writer and an expert in HIV criminalization and discrimination issues. Now, he said, the site has become a haven for offensive right-wing rhetoric, including petitions outing people who are allegedly living with HIV.

According to Heywood, this is particularly dangerous because “when you out someone as being HIV positive, you put them at risk for violence and potentially criminal action, depending on the state. Forced disclosure has led to several murders of women living with HIV.”

Naina Khanna is the executive director of Positive Women’s Network – USA. She said her organization sought help from when a June 2014 petition with the name “Aware the Public” accused a named individual of rape and of transmitting HIV to the petition creator’s sister. “We Reached out to, asking to them to exercise editorial control, to either edit or remove the petition,” she recalled, adding that her organization “explained why we felt this was really stigmatizing.”

The letter, sent to, noted that company’s definition of a petition was “a public message to one or more decision-makers, asking them to do something” and that the posted accusations “may not even qualify as a ‘petition.’” It also noted that the petition’s language calling the accused “already known for having AIDS” clearly “maligns a person based on a condition he may live with — a characteristic about himself that he cannot change,” in violation of the official hate speech guidelines.

Khanna shared the response’s Bose sent her, rejecting the request, with ThinkProgress. It stated:

If we received a claim from the man named in the petition, we would consider removing the petition but, in the absence of that, it’s the petition starter’s choice whether they want to edit or remove their petition. As an Internet platform, it’s not our place to judge people’s guilt or innocence nor to fact check every claim in the 30,000+ petitions that are started by people on every month.

We don’t evaluate hypothetical situations publicly, but I want to stress that if a petition was written with the sole intention of revealing someone’s HIV status or to malign all people with HIV, it would almost certainly violate our terms and be removed.

Khanna believes needs to do a better job of enforcing its terms of service. “It is the responsibility of a site like to be responsible in terms of exercising some sort of control,” she said. “They say they are not a place where bullying or harassment is allowed. This [kind of petition] is both.”

Asked about her company’s policing process,’s senior communications manager Shareeza Bhola said in an email that, “like YouTube and other open Internet platforms, we ask our users to flag any content that violates our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service. Our community can flag content by reporting it as inappropriate, writing to our help center, or by otherwise escalating it to our staff. Once we receive those flags, we have a team who monitor them, and if the content violates our policies, we will remove it.”

As for how many flags the company receives and how long it takes for offensive petitions to be removed, Bhola did not provide numbers but noted, “We have a Customer Advocacy team based in SF who work with contractors around the world to manage abuse complaints. The amount of time it takes to make these determinations varies greatly depending on the content — for example, we can relatively quickly judge if content is inciting violence.”’s Schoop said the company sees “over 1,000 new petitions every day” and has “only a small team of people reviewing the flags.” She added that the site recently updated its community guidelines and its “definition of hate speech includes content that maligns a whole class of people based on their gender identity, and sexual orientation.” But, she noted, to empower “anyone, anywhere, to create the change they want to see,” the company takes “suppressing the voice of any one of our users extremely seriously, which is why any content removal needs to be in line with our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.”

Bose acknowledged that the company has room for improvement as far as its policing speed. Noting the site’s rapid growth, she explained the site needs to grow its reviewing team: “This is an area [in which] we’re still catching up,” she said, noting that the company is currently in the hiring process for a “trust and safety lead.”

“These are tough challenges that all open Internet platforms face,” Bose observed. “To stay open, safe, and empowering,” she explained, the site has created an internal “decision flow, to determine whether content is bullying and hate speech.” doesn’t release that information publicly to ensure people don’t “game the system.”

Victories Every Day points to a number of progressive victories as evidence of the site’s influence. In April, they note, Netflix pledged to make all of their major original programs accessible to the blind, after more than 3,000 users urged them to do so. An Indiana lawmaker stripped language from his own bill in February after more than 236,000 people signed a petition warning it would hinder anti-bullying efforts in schools. After nearly 70,000 people signed a petition urging a policy change, the international basketball governing body agreed to allow players to wear religious head coverings.



It can be hard to gauge how much of an impact the petitions had in making the highlighted victories happen — and what constitutes a win.

A 2014 petition launched by former NFL punter Chris Kluwe garnered more than 80,000 signatures demanding the Minnesota Vikings release the results of an investigation they conducted into allegations of discrimination against their former player. After Kluwe agreed to a settlement with the team that did not include a full release of the report, he and the company deemed it a victory. Kluwe noted on the site that “the Vikings were very much aware of this petition and concerned about the resulting negative attention. We decided that it was not in our best interest — or the public’s interest — to force the team to release the entire investigation report publicly due to privacy concerns.”

2012 petition highlighted by suggests that it helped Trayvon Martin’s parents win “justice” for their son. Though charges were filed against Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, he was acquitted in 2013.

In an email to ThinkProgress highlighting the site’s victories for LGBT causes,’s Schoop noted, “Just today, a petition got [former Arkansas Republican Governor] Mike Huckabee kicked out of a conference hosted by the Jewish National Fund in Canada for his views on LGBTQ issues.” But the petition she linked to had garnered just 31 supporters and the news article mentioned in her email quoted the Jewish National Fund’s CEO saying that the petition “had absolutely no impact whatsoever” on the group’s decision to cancel Huckabee’s keynote speech.

The impact of some of the petitions, however, is undeniable. After Scouts for Equality and former Cub Scout leader Jennifer Tyrrell collected millions of signatures urging the Boy Scouts of America to eliminate its anti-LGBT policy, a largely-dormant movement was reignited. The organization lifted its ban on gay youth in 2013 and last month its president called for an end to the national ban on LGBT adults.

Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality told ThinkProgress that played a “critical role” in the effort. “The amount of signatures you can amass in one place really helps put a number on what the interest looks like — especially when you have such a compelling story as we do with the Scouts.” Wahls said the resulting media attention had a real impact on the national Boy Scout leadership: “I think what the platform did for us was to help put media attention on the issue. And that media attention is what caught the attention of BSA.”

Schoop said the site sees “almost one victory every hour on a wide range of topics.” She added, “Our homepage reflects some of the largest and most timely victories, and we gather all our victories here:”

As for the question of why the list seemingly omits conservative victories, like the petition to keep Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty on the air, Schoop had no response.

‘A Tacit Endorsement?’

Ben Rattray founder and CEO Ben Rattray

While many of the hateful petitions posted on receive only a handful of signatures, their presence can have a harmful effect, activists say. A since-removed petition seen by ThinkProgress calling for President Obama to “remove overly homosexual fagboy [name omitted] from existence” attracted just 14 signatures. But, critics note, this sort of petition need only be seen by that individual (whose apparent photo appeared in the petition) or one of his friends or family to cause serious damage to the person’s safety and well-being.

“Any time you have rhetoric in the body politic that is toxic, it sends a message to the targeted group — whether it’s LGBT, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, or even Christians — that [they] are less-than in American society. That helps create all sorts of insecurities for the individuals as well as social safety issues. When you perceive someone as less-than a full member of society, you’re more likely to start denying basic rights,” the former contractor Heywood warned. founder Ben Rattray has saidrepeatedly that he created the site precisely because he wanted to support minority communities. Rattray told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012 that his younger brother came out to him as gay before the rest of his conservative family knew, and that he regretted not supporting him sufficiently. As his brother’s school attendance declined, he began experimenting with drugs, and he threatened to run away, Rattray stayed silent.

“The lack of active rejection of the venom of homophobia is still a tacit endorsement,” Rattray said. “It’s exacerbated by people like me.”


Related posts

Boycott hosting hate-filled petition against Palestine

 Schoolboy’s Facebook photo divides Jewish South Africans

Three boys wearing Palestinian scarves
The image led to three online petitions

A Jewish schoolboy from South Africa has posted a photo, and message of support, for Palestinians living in Gaza – highlighting a rift in the country’s Jewish community.

Last week, Joshua Broomberg uploaded a picture of himself and two friends to Facebook. All were wearing Palestinian scarves, and it was accompanied by a message reading “Team South Africa… show our opposition to the human rights violations being carried out against the people of Palestine”.

The post caused fury in a segment of the country’s Jewish community, and over the weekend an online petition had been set up demanding he be punished. Broomberg is deputy head boy and head of the debating team at King David Victory Park, a Jewish school in

The petition was posted on, and called for his removal from “all leadership positions”. It is addressed to the school’s headmaster, Gavin Budd, and Rabbi Craig Kacev, head of the South African Board of Jewish Education, to which the school is affiliated. It has attracted more than 2,000 signatures, and a string of comments from Jewish South Africans who were shocked by Broomberg’s post.

One commenter, who says he used to be deputy head boy at the same school, said Broomberg’s actions were “an absolute insult to my heroes and Israel as a whole,” and added, “this is really saddening to see, hope it is dealt with accordingly!”

Soon, however, two rival petitions were created, lobbying the school to stand by Broomberg and his Facebook post. “We oppose the suggested removal of the Deputy Head Boy… and support his leadership & humanitarian qualities,” said one, also on and created by a user named Rob Hutchinson, from Johannesburg. Another, entitled “Defend Freedom of Expression in the Jewish Community,” was createdon and the initial signatories say they are all former pupils at King David Victory Park. The opposing petitions have attracted a combined total of more than 7,000 signatures.

The reaction to Broomberg’s case seems to reflect a growing debate among South Africa’s Jewish population, estimated to be around 70,000 strong. On Monday, around 500 members of the community marched in Durban to protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza. They reportedly sought to distance themselves from local Jewish organisations that showed “blind support” for the military campaign.

Broomberg himself has now responded, taking to Facebook to defend his message. “While I apologise for the hurt we seem to have caused, I do not apologise for standing with Palestine on this issue,” he wrote.

For his part, the South African Board of Jewish Education’s Rabbi Kacev has dismissed all three of the online campaigns. Speaking to BBC Trending, he explained that the school teaches children about the centrality of the state of Israel, adding: “For many that’s a political statement, but for us it isn’t. We’re not a political organisation”.

Reporting by Sam Judah




Open letter to Benratt Ray CEO

In 2013 , ton teh same lines t a petition exposes


Campaign Victory EXPOSED !!, The Cat is out of the Bag





Related posts — Cat is out of the Bag  Cat is out of the Bag, so let’s stop playing Ping Pong

May 12, Mumbai- Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Kractivism

  Its official now

After months of testing, is ready to launch a new revenue model that is geared to consumers, not organizations. By targeting consumers, the team expects to pull in steady revenues in smaller dollar amounts. Contributions are capped at $1,000 per user per petition, but beta tests found that 98 percent of contributions were under $100. During the test period, a total of 5800 people contributed to promoted petitions. Read more here Now anyone can sponsor a petition on

This is how petitions can be promoted and sponsored

Promoted Petitions allow anyone to promote their favorite petitions to users who may not otherwise come across them. Similar to promoted posts on Facebook or promoted tweets on Twitter, Promoted Petitions allows users to pay to feature any petition to other users on the site.

Sponsored Campaigns are similar to Promoted Petitions, but structured slightly differently to help organizations establish long-term relationships with users who are passionate about their work and sign their campaigns. Each Sponsored Campaign has an opt-in box allowing users to agree to find out more information about the sponsoring organization after signing. Organizations ready to connect with their next generation of supporters can head to for Organizations to learn more.

My open letter to Ben Rattray, last October, was precisely about this , #India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism when they announced change in advertising policies that ,there is no confusion that is  not a business for a social cause but  like any for profit , they are making money on our database.

Now after my expose.THE CHANGE CAMPAIGN EXPOSED  wherein I bought to notice two conflicting petitions on the same platform. I did get a reply on a  site ???  Wondering why  change .org  could not the responses  reply on an  official site?  Also the   site with no  option to comment ,   My question,to   India director, Avijit Michael, that by replying to me, on another change/org staffs personal blog , with no option to comment,   this how proposes to have a public engagement ?

The fact that  it was only after  I  pointed out that  two conflicting petitions, looked into the matter and found that the  petition of voyeuristic  journalists managed  thousands  signatures by fraud  . They  have informed Information and Broadcasting  Ministry . Interesting but what if they would not be informed, will they know will  then and will they take action ?

For once let me make it clear I do not have a personal vendetta against and neither people are confused by allegations they are concerned.

Here is a  Hoot investigative story on and how it operates  notes , Deconstructing believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.

Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.

I will let the responses to my  expose on speak for itself. I got many emails, facebook messages , some of them are below

आपने जो उदाहरण दिया है उससे स्‍पष्‍ट है कि कोई भी चेंज डॉट ओआरजी का दुरुपयोग कर सकता है। वैसे भी ये या तो व्‍यवसाय कर सकते हैं या सामाजिक बदलाव में कोई भूमिका निभा सकते हैं। और किसी को भ्रम नहीं होना चाहिए कि ये प्‍लेटफॉर्म सामाजिक बदलाव के लिए है। it’s really selling you and me on change dot org. –sandeepsamvad, new delhi, emaiil

it is hard to believe that is not selling signatures as you have not completely denied when you said “Kamayani’s claim that we sell email addresses to sponsors is also incorrect. Our business model has been clearly outlined on the site. We allow our users to voluntarily opt-in to receive mailing from organisations via sponsored petitions.”there is a strong reason for not believing your words as in first instance you said in your reply “partly because one of them was the subject to anattempt at fraud and manipulation over the last week — almost 5000 signatures were added by two IP addresses” AND in very next line you say ” We have multiple levels of systemic checks to prevent this kind of abuse and ensurethat the integrity of our platform is maintained. The fraudulent signatureshave already been removed to reflect the count of genuine signatures.” WHAT HAPPEND TO THE MULTIPLE LEVELS OF SYSTEMIC CHECKS when peoples were signing petitions from one IP , in this case you have deleted signatures but how do we believe that other “victories” petitions are signed by individuals ;with this whole incident I think there are strong flaws on , you have believed , trusted and took actions on almost all points Kamayani higlighted and on other hand you said “We completely respect Kamayani’s right to a different view, although we regret that she is spreading misinformation about”

I would have trusted on your words , if you would have removed this fraudulent signature petition and all other such petitions;I myself have written a petition and I know it is very difficult for us to raise a issue and bring in people to spend a time and sign it ; with this whole incidence of my belief on online petitions is shattered .lastly I perceive it in this way and that is , I think you also believe less  on , as you chose Tumbler to highlight such a big news about your own website .I am hoping for a fair dialogue about this whole issues with a thread of previous emails and replies on homepage so that truth must come out …

( Rahul Deveshwar on Facebook ) platform is no longer on the side of justice, but neutral in the fight against oppression, and hence, has actually taken the side of the oppressor…( Aashish Gupta  via email)

The idea that the makes no judgment on the type of petition seems a bit strange. Do they not have some sort of system of checks and balances? How many people sign things just on trust? I know I have done. To personalise the mistake (if it was a mistake) that they may have made to an individual who points out the inconsistency of their position on a specific petition seems to me a policy of “shoot the messenger” No petition is a trivial issue to those who take the trouble of starting one, or signing one. Motives would seem a significant factor. therefore this personalisation also would appear to have a motive. Is the organisation afraid of criticism? In which case the attack on an individual would seem logical. Why could not have  provided a coherent answer to the inconsistency highlighted and not personalise the matter to an individual. It is those who work on the ground with people who matter, the idea of holding “people power and democracy in high regard” seems to me bullshit, and appears to appeal to interest groups who have a neo liberal agenda of control.
Kamayani I think all such organisations to me are suspect and anyone who points a finger that may expose their inconsistencies would be demonised in some way. specially such democracy movements of recent past seem to have had bloody results when western interests are threatened, Middle East, Pakistan orange revolution etc etc come to mind. There is sometimes more at stake than rights of people and that is the jobs of those who run these corporate “rights” organisations almost across the world and they would always go with their sponser, who would be western based or financed.  Kamayani, May be you have touched a brick that could shake the edifice ? I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.   I have closed by account  (Satish Barot on FB)

” I am a little shocked that we bothered Mr. Tumbler. When I think, you own It would be more official when you post it there. Innit ?” (Harish Iyer, Facebook)

I am frankly unconvinced by Change-org’s response, and as a user of Change in the past, may be forced to rethink my use of this platform. The simple question that bothers me is: how ‘neutral’ can such a platform be? If there is a petition demanding action against, say, Hindutva hate-speech or anti-dalit violence, will Change also host a petition by the same accused persons, as long as the language they use is not ‘hateful’? I would be much more comfortable with a clear, though broad, policy by such a platform.    ( Kavita Krishnan, New Delhi email )

I completely agree that the case of the NALSAR students whose privacy was invaded and who were morally policed by these mediapeople shows exactly why change.orgshould not accept petitions from all sources. Many of us followed Kamayani’s use of because we believed the organization had an explicit pro-justice bias in the campaigns it took on. Having be a neutral platform to be used by anybody, or accepting paid sponsorships means that the platform indeed becomes something like Facebook – a profit seeking platform which we can use but which is not by itself an ally. I urge to discard labels like neutrality, openness and democracy- all of which are used in our current socioeconomic system to mean that those with money will have the loudest voice – and to take an explicit stand on promoting justice through their petitions…( Kaveri, Bangalore )

It is sad that every space has been taken over by the BUSINESS and MONEY MAKERS…. we think we are playing in a free ground but that ground is also owned by the same corrupt minds… Amir Rizvi, Mumbai

It is indeed time that the issue about online petitions was addressed in more detail. Having read your blog and the response by leaves me to conclude that is definitely on the back foot as it has not bothered to explain the selling of email ID’s names etc for proit to other NGO’s. This is the business model of all the online petition sites and that is how they manage to have fancy pay packages for their employees and maintain their infrastructure. Sure, may well be a technology oriented, democratic organization, but that does not absolve it from carrying out unethical practices.

The argument that allows opt-in is not a favor done by the organization towards its users. It is legally mandated that such services should opt-in rather than opt-out services (throw back to Google, Facebook and other litigation’s and their results)

What happens to these online petitions (apart from creating a few seconds of “awareness”) is also debatable. I wonder if has devised any metric to track what effect their online petitions have made. Being a “technology driven” organization, they should have the the means to track the effects of their petitions and should release such audits from time to time to their users.

In summary, the business model of appears to be simply that of any other aggregator/mass e-mailer. To cloak this behind a veil of social consciousness and activism is doing dis-service to others who actually get their hands dirty doing real work and not sit behind computer terminals in air-conditioned offices selling their databases to the highest bidder. (Anuj Wankhede, Delhi)

I am completely with you and also understand the concern you raised in your narration. Media being one of the institutions operated and controlled by capitalist and patriarchal values certainly is not going to take pro-women, pro-equality stand. The argument of that they provide space for ‘activism’ seem to be not true unless they take a critical position on issues being raised in and through their space. What if tomorrow anti-women, anti-dalits, anti-muslims, anti-abortion, anti-poor, anti-rights, anti-tribal, anti-minority people start putting up their petitions through What would be the position of owners/facilitators of this space?

Request to from my side is to upload their position on many of the issues they feel are the result of inequalities, historic and systemic nature of discrimination, coercive hierarchies and culture of violence. Anand Pawar, Pune has crossed the line between change-making and profit-making  .

So people are not confused by my expose ,but more concerned !

Related posts – Sign the change you want to see #onlineactivism

The concept of online petitioning is riding high on the wave of social change sweeping the world. MANU MOUDGIL says that while the impact is promising, there are several roadblocks to be negotiated.
Posted/Updated Saturday, Apr 27 ,
Every other day, a new mail drops into the inbox asking you to ‘change the world’ by signing a petition. It can be as serious an issue as seeking justice for an acid attack victim or as trivial as asking Justin Bieber to have a live concert in India. For an increasing number of urban Indians bred on concepts of equality and justice but frustrated by trappings of age-old power hierarchies of this country, the idea is promising. You don’t need to be a kurta-wearing social activist sitting on dharnas or a donor writing cheques to fund campaigns. Just filling in your name, email Id and postal code would do.
Petitioning around social campaigns has been in practice for decades but never has its impact been more pronounced than today when a call to ‘stop rape’ can gather 59,000 signatures in just 24 hours (On last count, the petition had 6.64 lakh signatures). For every signature, the decision makers get an email (many petitions also request the supporters to call the officials) thus ensuring constant pressure on them to act.
Two government school teachers in Jharkhand get paid after four years, five asphalt factories in Rajasthan shut down for causing air pollution, a discriminatory temple ritual is banned in Karnataka…the list goes on about the impact online petitions have made, though not singularly.
Online petitioning picked up pace in India after 2011 when, the world’s largest e-petition platform, started its operations here. Today, it has close to 6 lakh users with 600-800 petitions started every month, up from 11-15 petitions two years ago. Worldwide, it has operations in 18 countries and boasts of 35 million users. also scores over other online platforms because of its support team, which helps build a communication strategy around selected petitions. In India, a small five-member team sends emails to users, talks to the media and suggests ways to engage with decision makers around campaigns which are bound to get popular support like the anti-rape petition started in wake of the Delhi gang-rape. The team works on 14-16 campaigns a week.
Everyone’s invited
One palpable difference online platforms have made in the field of campaigning is democratisation of the petitioning tool. Anybody can mobilise support for a cause they strongly feel about. Namita Bhandare, who started the anti-rape petition, had never participated in protest marches or candlelight vigils. She wrote the petition just to give vent to her anger and feeling of helplessness after the Delhi gang-rape. “At first, I questioned myself what would a petition do. In fact, now I realise that the recommendations we made in the petition were very basic and the Justice Verma Commission went much beyond as it factored in marital rape, action against armed forces and redefined sexual assault. However, filing that petition was cathartic for me. The tool lends power to the people who were earlier completely dependent on media or NGOs to mobilise support,” she says.
However, critics believe that e-petition promotes slacktivism or armchair activism which is also the reason it is so successful. It gives “false power” to those who feel helpless in face of problems they can’t control and prevents many of the supporters from participating in on-ground action. Preethi Herman, Campaigns Director at laughs off such criticism. “We tend to assume that people just sign petitions. Online platform is the first point of engagement. They make telephone calls to decision makers, participate in offline events and help spread the word further. You can’t equate mobilisation with activism as it’s more about developing a larger support base for your cause. Most of the supporters are not activists but they do want a change,” she says.
Bhandare agrees: “ E-petition does sensitise one to the cause. You can’t just start a petition on rape and go to a cocktail party. I am sure many of the signatories to my petition also joined the on-ground protests.” also collaborates with Video Volunteers and CGNet Swara, the two grassroots-level organisations which use video and audio media to highlight issues in rural India. “It was important for us to adapt to Indian conditions where Internet penetration is still very low. We work with Video Volunteers and CGNet Swara to identify issues in their areas which could be promoted online and hence bridge the gap between rural and urban population,” Herman says.
Tania Devaiah, the impacts manager at Video Volunteers, confirms that getting numbers behind a cause through online petition lends an institutional approach to the campaign. “Constant flow of emails and phone calls does build pressure on decision makers in comparison to a single approach of making and screening of videos. We pick up issues for online campaigns where either it’s difficult to make the authorities act or the cause has a universal appeal,” she adds. The next frontier wants to conquer is to make the platform available in Hindi and adapt it to mobile phones.
The loopholes believes that to get the desired impact, online petitions should be supported by on ground action, exposure in local media and interactions with decision makers. However, in many cases, the offline or on-ground mobilisation may be completely missing, thus putting a question mark on sustainability of the impact generated. For instance, a petition by Video Volunteers against a discriminatory practice in a Rajasthan village where a traditional practice of Dalit women carrying their footwear in their hands while crossing the houses of upper caste families garnered 5,480 signatures.
Acting on the petition, the District Collector along with other officials held a meeting in the village apprising them of the law banning caste discrimination and ordered that the practice be disallowed. However, the villagers did not even know that there was a campaign running on this issue and unknown people were playing their saviours over the Internet. The impact has been that the Dalits are now much more scared to talk about the discrimination, as mentioned by this report in Times of India. Herman refutes this claim, saying that the correspondent of Video Volunteers had mobilised Dalit women against this practice and villagers might be scared of talking to the media due to local power equations. However, independent inquiries made by The Hoot confirm that the action taken by the officials was solely on the basis of the online petition and there was no local campaign against the practice.
Verification of facts reported in the petition is another sore point. Though some petitions do carry images and videos related to the issue, there are chances that you might end up supporting a wrong cause. For instance, an incident in Hyderabad got two separate petitions running on the website. Girl college students coming out of a pub after a farewell party were accused by the regional news channels of creating nuisance at a public place and depicted as uncultured while the students blamed the media of moral policing and wrongful depiction. The chances are you may end up signing one of these petitions without getting to know the other side. Herman says since numerous petitions are created daily, it’s not possible to substantiate the facts presented in each of them but whenever the Change team works on and pushes a petition, the facts are verified in detail.
Values shortchanged? claims to be a corporation using the power of business for social good. It made revenue by allowing sponsored petitions from progressive groups willing to shell out dollars to promote their campaigns. The concept has helped the company generate enough profit to make its functioning self-sustaining.
However, something changed in October last year when a leaked internal documentrevealed how the organisation was replacing its value-based advertising policy to an ‘open’ approach allowing even conservatives and corporates to use its resources. This invited widespread criticism from the progressive community which felt that the vast user database it helped build through the years was being sold to the opposition camp.
On the other hand, as underscored by Isaac Luria of Groundswell, organisations running social campaigns don’t get a full contact list of their supporters whom they could later invite to attend meetings, join local groups, or donate. “Of course, I could have bought the names that signed the petition on for around $500,000 or about $2 per name if I had the foresight before the campaign was launched or had the money,” he adds.
Change’s founder Ben Rattray responded to the criticism by arguing that the organisation “cannot maintain an open platform and simultaneously block all ads that don’t fit a particular political view” and ads from controversial groups would only be accepted if the platform has users interested in their work. He also emphasised that an open advertiser policy was essential to avoid being “regularly forced into unsustainable positions.”
However, not everybody was impressed with these clarifications. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, an online campaigner who has initiated a petition asking Rattray to come out clean, says the definition of openness pushed by is not in consonance with progressive principles. “I used to laugh at some of the inane petitions like the ones promoting homophobia or anti-abortion, as I was sure will not give any support and the petition will die its own death. But with the new policy, anyone is eligible to advertise. So, after I sign a petition for human rights, I might find a link to a sponsored petition on giving legal recognition to khap panchayats,” she says.
Mahabal has now been trying other online platforms but is not happy with their technical support. For the time being, she is using her own blog to mobilise online support and is hopeful that Indian activists will have their own independent platform soon.
Meanwhile, as they say, every change is accompanied by discomforts. The question is how well can we deal with these.
Official recognition

Online petitioning is officially recognised in the US where the right to petition your government is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The White House hosts an online platform ‘We the People’ where any petition which gets 1,00,000 signatures within 30 days elicits a government response. The threshold before January 2013 was 25,000 signatures and one of the petitions which got the White House speaking was seeking ‘genocide’ status for the 1984 Sikh riots in India. The petition had more than 30,000 signatures.

original article

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#India – : Campaign Victory’s exposed #Vaw #Socialmedia

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, April 23 2013 , Kracktivism

l 23, 2013, Kractivism

  “Every day, members win people-powered campaigns for social change”.

Just to give a background to those, who are reading about for first time. It’s a popular and fast-growing website for petitions. In the last  two years, has grown from 1 million to more than 25  million users, according to the site . It began as a liberal blogging site and then pivoted  to become a hub for petitions, mostly with a liberal or populist bent.

Staring as domain name to its declaration that “our business is social good” to its certification as a B Corporation, positioned itself as a progressive force. It promised to run campaigns for “organizations fighting for the public good and the common values we hold dear—fairness, equality, and justice.” That’s no longer its mission.  Something changed last year, The policy changed, ‘ partners’ became ‘advertisers ‘in the name openness, democracy and empowerment . So which means now  they will accept paid promotions from conservative organizations, Corporations , that no bar. I had written   Open letter to CEO Ben Rattray last year  in which I said I will not participate but monitor

So here is an expose of monitoring  campaigns of in India

 In India   we have two petitions being  hosted on, one by victims and one by perpetrators ?

You think I am joking please read below

The Incident behind both the  petitions :-

Late evening on 11 April 2013, a group of students from Nalsar Law  University went to the Rain Club located in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, for what was meant to be a farewell party for the graduating seniors.

When they stepped out of the club around 10.30pm to wait for their cab, one of the women students spotted someone taking their pictures with a mobile  phone. She objected and demanded to see the mobile. The mobile turned out to be a dummy, without a card in it. When she further objected and demanded that the phone with which photos were taken be handed over, other media cameramen who were present began to film the altercation.

The students were outraged at this invasion of their privacy and the callous response of media cameramen who continued the harassment by following them to the car and persisting in filming them even as they were vehemently protesting this invasion.

The next morning several Telugu channels began showing the footage. Some websites also put up the footage. TV9, ABN Andhra Jyoti, Sakshi TV, Studio N, NTV, IdlyTV, News 24 .

The incident represents blatant sexual harassment of women in a public place, criminal intimidation of the women with threat of public defamation through media. The anchors of the channels repeatedly referred to the women as  punch drunk, half naked, and nude, when the women students were dressed in strapless evening wear. One of the female anchors referred to their attire  as “creepily offensive short clothes.” They also claimed that they were dancing in the club although the entire story was played out on the street and not inside the club. The media persons were not present inside the club. To make matters worse, CVR News put together several clips of provocative dancing from various sources, implying that the present incident was somehow connected to those. Significantly, while only a couple of channels were present outside the  club and were involved in the incident, the story was generously shared with many other channels and web sites. All the channels replayed the footage  provided by the offending channels without providing any opportunity for the  victims of this coverage to respond or give their side of the story.

The channels also were assuming the tone of moral police, claiming that the students were “leaving Indian traditions in tatters by their dressing and  behaviour”. The anchors of the channels took on the role of moral police  by commenting on the young girls’ clothing, even as the channels’ staple fare  for advertising revenue on their news bulletins comprises song and dance sequences from films and film events featuring skimpily clad women doing vulgar dances to vulgar lyrics. The reporters and anchors held forth on excessive freedom for women and its “devastating” effects on society.

The channels also falsely claimed that the students’ behaviour was condemned by women’s organizations even though they only showed the statements of two little-known local politicians, thereby misleading public opinion.

So here on change org , we have a petition by supporters of NALSAR students  asking for  Stringent actions against media houses participating in voyeuristic reporting ,  addressed to Justice Katju, Chairperson, Press Council of India , Justice N V Ramana, Acting Chief Justice, High Court of Andhra Pradesh , Ms Aruna D K, Minister for Information & Public Relations, Cinematography, AP Film, TV & Theatre Dvlpt Corp, AP  Justice Verma, Chairperson, News and Broadcasting Standards Authority Mr Manish Tiwari, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Union of India

The petition says

The media in our country has engaged in relentless sensationalism, resorting to cheap and lowly tactics to raise TRPs and viewership. This includes airing concocted stories; violating people’s privacy by taking video footage, morphing the images and airing it against completely fabricated and sensationalistic stories; secretly taking videos of people in private parties and clubs and extorting them; and engaging in harassing and abusive conduct. One such incident of unethical, irresponsible, and victimizing behaviour is an incident that occurred on the 121h of April, 2013 to college girls from NALSAR University of Law.The petition has reached 5000 plus signatures


And on the other hand, we also have giving platform to the  voyeuristic reporters .with a petition floated by Electronic Media Journalists’ Association of AP , asking to Condemn the action of a group of students who assaulted media persons   addressed to, Manish Tiwari, I&B Minister, Govt of India , Prof. (Dr) Faizan Mustafa ,, Vice-Chancellor, Nalsar , Mrs D K Aruna, Minister of State in AP , Justice Mr M Katju, Chairperson, Press Council of India Justice Katju ,Justice Verma, Chairperson, News and Broadcasting Standards Authority ,Justice N V Ramana, Acting Chief Justice, High Court of Andhra Pradesh ,Hari Prasad, President of Electronic Media Journalists’ Association of AP Please note the targets of both petitions are same .

The petition says

Andhra Pradesh has the maximum number of television news channels not only in India but also in the entire world. The ratings and the importance of these channels show how reliable and responsible the media is in Andhra Pradesh. They never restore to cheap and lowly tactics. There is self-monitoring desk as well as the important organization NBA that keeps monitor on all the channels content.

This petition also has 5000 plus signatures


Now I want to ask, which petition’s victory will be their victory ?

Wait a minute,

whoever wins or loses,

 it’s a Win- Win situation for

As a big fans of freedom of speech, they claim their democractic platform. and well whoever wins. Change will be their submitting the petition claiming their VICTORY !! . But I wonder what will they do when they have to take a STAND ? So which petition will they push ? or will; they push both ? and then see pros and cons in context of the political situation and in a closed door meeting then thrash out two teams to work on these two petitions . Call both parties  and weigh the  probabilities and then take a call, keeping both parties in dark on probabilities ?.

So, guys wake up, all those who petition on .This online platform is a for profit  company ,  who through these petitions is  trying legitimize their image as that of  ACTIVISM .They also get  commercial benefits through donations and sponsorships just by providing platform to all you ,under the garb of various human rights issues . VICTORY is for’s mission  statement says ‘ to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see, and we believe the best way to achieve that mission is by combining the values of a non-profit with the flexibility and innovation of a tech startup. ” They call themselves “social enterprise,” using the power of business for social good. “Social Enterprise,” is a term that’s gotten a lot of hold among people who start companies and want to make a difference in the world. But social enterprise as opposed to what? Anti-social enterprise?

Here is where’s business model comes into play. sells what are called “sponsored petitions” to its advertisers. Most are nonprofits–right now they include Amnesty International USA, Greenpeace and the Human Rights Campaign — but there’s nothing to prevent companies from sponsoring petitions. Tapping into its audience, collects names on those petitions and then sells those who opt in to the sponsor, for about $2 per name. Some advertisers get discounts, and other pay more, for example, for people in specific states. Here is a request to Change .org , please, on behalf of companies everywhere Spare us the pieties about how “our business is social good.” is a digital media business. Like MTV or Facebook, It creates or aggregates content, the  petitions,  to attract an audience whose attention, in the form of email addresses, it sells to sponsors.

It’s not selling social change. It’s selling you and me.  .

So here is my Appeal to all friends, activists,  celebrating their victories,  and  petitions on,

It’s  time ….

If you’re a member at take action by unsubscribing from their list. At the very least they can’t profit further off your email.. If you see petitions passed around by friends on don’t sign them and inform them what’s going on.  It’s important to Explore alternatives

Hopefully the activists in India will very soon have their own activist, accountable, and transparent platform.

Watch out this blog for more 🙂

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The Changes at Change.Org: Is This Change We Can Believe In?

Author image

by Gwen Emmons

October 29, 2012 -,

Last week, the Huffington Post reported that, long regarded as a progressive organization, would begin accepting sponsored petitions from conservative organizations and businesses. The new policy marks a dramatic shift for the company, whichpreviously claimed in its advertising guidelines that the organization only “accept[s] sponsored campaigns from organizations fighting for the public good and the common values we hold dear—fairness, equality, and justice.”

Now the company that once stated that it did not run sponsored petitions from parties that violate their values will welcome petitions from the very organizations that do, giving anti-choice organizations, astroturf groups, corporations, pro-gun groups, and political parties access to an international activist community of millions. is an online petition site founded in 2007 by Ben Rattray. Individuals around the world can use tools to create free petitions advocating for causes. Sponsors can also pay to host a petition on the site, in exchange for the email addresses of those who sign their petition. The company is home to some of the best online organizers in the world, and they’ve racked up serious victories in five short years—including a petition that successfully pressured Bank of America to drop their five dollar debit card fee, and a 13-year-old’s petition aimed at Seventeen magazine which forced editors to re-evaluate their Photoshop policies.

For the most part,’s victories have been progressive ones. Protecting women who call out their rapists, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, looking out for Apple workers in China—these have been noble victories that challenged our ideas of what online petitions can do. However, the company now plans to extend that transformative power to organizations fighting for people and companies previously on the receiving end of petitions, while claiming that they have never said they were a progressive company.

Internal documents leaked by a staffer who has since been fired from the company explain that’s new “openness policy” is a result of a rapidly expanding company trying to keep up with demand. Previously, vetted petitions to ensure each petition and organization aligned with their values. A “Frequently Asked Questions” document notes that “will soon have thousands of advertisers, and is [sic] would be impossible to scaleably investigate the organizations behind all of these petitions.” The FAQ document adds, “By rejecting some advertisers because we disagree with them, we’d be implicitly endorsing those we accept and exposing ourselves to daily attacks from people who don’t think certain advertisers fit within a set of values.”

The shift comes as continues to expand internationally, where, the group claims, progressive values don’t always translate. It also appears to be a response to controversy that erupted this summer, when received significant blowback for running petitions for anti-labor organizations Students First and Stand for Children.

Raven Brooks, Executive Director of Netroots Nation, believes the policy reversal will happen in two phases. In an interview, he told RH Reality Check, “Corporate front groups will be the first things we’ll see [on the site], since they already have an existing model with Michelle Rhee’s group, Students First. The next phase will be going after conservative issue areas – but first, has to get those people into their system so they can advertise to them.”

Despite requests from RH Reality Check, declined to comment for this article, stating that their communications staffers were instead focusing on promoting high-profile petition campaigns on the site.’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Matt Slutsky, pointed me to a message he posted to the listserv Progressive Exchange in response to an email thread about the policy change. In it, Slutsky writes:

We believe our impact on the world will be greater if we’re an open platform than if we’re an agenda-driven organization. This is pretty unique and in some cases different from the organizations represented on [Progressive Exchange], and it can also be difficult as openness means that some people many of us personally disagree with are able to launch campaigns on our site. That said, our petition platform is, and always has been, open to anyone to start a petition on whatever they care about. That’s what defines our organization and it’s the core component of our work.

He also noted the company is working on personalization technology to target petitions to certain people (and hide them from others)so if you sign a petition in support of Trayvon Martin, you likely won’t be asked to also sign a petition for the NRA.

The misgivings Slutsky acknowledges in his email to Progressive Exchange are echoed in internal emails to staff, some of who undoubtedly are also uncomfortable with the change. “For some of you, this vision won’t feel like a shift at all. For others, it might seem like a big re-framing of who we are,” CEO Ben Rattray wrote in an email to staff in July of this year. Possibly anticipating as much external turmoil as internal turmoil, the company planned to quietly roll out these changes without notice to the advocacy community.

Progressive advocates aren’t buying the new policies.

“I would argue that the founder of is clearly not attempting to further progress, but is attempting to further his income,” says Shelley Abrams, a Virginia activist who founded Cooch Watch 2012, in an interview with RH Reality Check.

He started the site with one agenda, and is now changing that agenda. But don’t try to tell me you are still trying to be an agent for progressive change. That is clearly bullshit.

Rattray’s own words in an internal email to staff posted by Aaron Krager and shared publiclyare telling. “While our mission to maximize our positive impact in the world is our guiding light, it’s not why we’re having such influence,” he writes. “The reason for our impact, and what makes us unique and potentially transformative, is our strategy: empowerment.” Brooks believes that’s exactly the problem.

“I believe in movement infrastructure and competitive advantage. Where [conservatives] excel is money, and they’ve got a media infrastructure that’s second to none,” he admits. “But on our side, our strength has been people and creativity. Technology supports, extends, and expands those things… and it’s not in anyone’s interest to give them a hand in that.”

Abrams has seen this firsthand, as right-wing groups in Virginia are frequently co-opting her group’s ideas in support of their own missions. But she notes that they’re rarely able to use them as effectively as her group has.

“That’s because there is an agile mindset to progressivism that obviously un-progressive groups do not have. Progressivists are about changing (for the better) and non-progressive groups are about stagnation,” she wrote in an email. But as we’ve seen with astroturf groups and SuperPACs, it’s all too easy to bend a conservative message to fit a progressive-sounding mold.’s new policy of openness doesn’t provide a safeguard for that.

But will’s move affect progressive advocacy? Abrams, who prefers on-the-ground activism to online petitions, says the move “reeks of selling out… [But] is it the end of the movement if they sell out? No.” After consideration, Brooks believes the loss of as a progressive advocacy platform is a small one. He pointed to, a similar site created by, and Care2, as alternatives to, and believes this policy change will open up more competition for online advocacy platforms. Still, he says, “we’re losing a great team of campaigners.”

That loss has hit the progressive community hard.  Brooks says Netroots Nation activists and other progressives on listservs he follows are “pretty universally upset and betrayed.” Brooks has already heard of listserv managers expunging subscribers from their lists, and nonprofits dropping their contracts with the company.

Others believe that empowering former enemies stands in the way of progressive causes’ progress. Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch, which previously hosted paid petitions on, wrote in a blog post Wednesday, “We don’t want to see climate change deniers empowered. We have worked with to empower people with a vision of a better world that is economically and socially equitable and where the environment is protected.”

Hauter continued, “Even after talking with Ben [Rattray], I get the impression that their decision comes down to increasing their size and reach…. We’re disappointed that has apparently decided that profit trumps progressive values. I think has become confused about what kind of change we want and what democracy really looks like.”

Follow Gwen Emmons on Twitter, @gwenemmons


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Has compromised its values for ad revenue? #Benrattray #Mustshare

by  Oct 31, 2012, FIRSTPOST has changed. And chances are that you might have missed it.

The social action platform, which is credited with hosting many online campaigns to bring about change, is facing criticism for replacing its ‘values based’ advertising policy for an ‘open’ approach in which advertisements are accepted based on the content of the ad, not the group doing the advertising, says a company document meant for internal circulation, but which got leaked before the company could go public with its re-branding strategy.

In effect, the company has allowed for advertisements from various quarters including corporate houses and political parties.

Screenshot from

What this means is that even anti-abortion, pro-gun, union-busting advertising and ads by political parties will be allowed on the site, marking a remarkable change in the overall outlook of the company.

Before the policy shift, according to the document, the company’s advertising policy was values based. It accepted clients case by case, one at a time, based on their alignment with its values as a company.

The new advertising policy is akin to those of many leading platforms, open by default to any group that wants to advertise with them. “We are open to organizations that represent all points of view, including those with which we personally (and strongly) disagree,’ reads the document.

As per the company’s original strategy, it was not to allow campaigns by political parties as, “there were a number of risks involved in allowing political ads, in particular around our brand and user experience.”

The decision to allow political ads, is based on the feedback from the team including staff from outside the US, reads the document. “One of the primary ways people get involved in civic participation is through politics and elections, and we don’t want to close door to political actors engaging in something which they can do through many channels, and which has the potential to increase their responsiveness to citizens overall.”

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, an online campaigner based in Mumbai, who has initiated many petitions on, says that the company’s advertising policy shift demonstrates the potential perils of for-profit companies founded on progressive values, and shows the power of money.

Read more here-

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#India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism

Dear Ben Rattray

You  started ,to change  the world, you did made an impact on social change in last five years,in US. In the developing world especially in India , there was mutli-fold increase in petitions, in last one year. So what was different about change, which made it so popular?  The fact it was a business model, which was entering social change with a very transparent and accountable agenda . You are not a non profit organisation claiming anything, true, but you were  representing a progressive community fighting for social justice and change, fighting for human rights of people across the globe. You were using the power of business for social good. Also the fact that each petition was checked and there was a coordination between offline protest , campaigns and the online petition.

I invested  my time at  by  creating many  human rights and petitions on in past one year. There have been  small victories  Paypal apologises. There have been some big victories ,Family Matters taken away from Justice Bhaktavatsala, Amnesty International intervenes to Free Waqar, The Kashmiri YouthFreedom for Arun Ferreira behind bars for 4 years under draconian laws  , and some still continue to create impact like the petition for a  To Save Soni Sori and Punish Chhattisgarh Police & has had impact for international mobilization .

I have closely worked with team on  many petitions, and also guided them  time and again on some other petitions as well, as I strongly believed ,in the fact, that they had taken a stand for social justice and human rights., meant business, yes business to take stand for  human rights . I  used to laugh at some of the inane petitions, which were totally ridiculous e.g. homophobic, anti abortion petition, as I  was sure will not give any support, neither a push and the petition will die its own death. But your decision to change your advertising policy in the name of  openness, democracy and empowerment is nothing more than a facade. There was a certain element of  trust which has been broken  by the new changes in your advertising policy.  built its reputation on arming Davids to take on the Goliaths, now it seems that you think David and Goliath should be on the same team.

After reading the leaked documents, I was very disturbed and angry and asked the team in India about it and I got the following email, by country head of in India on Oct 25th 2012

 Hi Kamayani,

 as you are one of our most active users I wanted to reach out to you to clarify things in light of the Huffington Post and other pieces regarding our advertising guidelines.’s mission is to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see. Our vision is a world in which no one is powerless and making change is a part of daily life.

We believe the best way to achieve this is to have a platform that is truly open (like a true democracy) to all points of view as long as they don’t violate our terms of service – eg: hateful, violent, fraudulent etc. (full details here

We’re also extending this to our advertisers as long as they do not violate advertising guidelines

This is the same yardstick that every tech platform uses – from FB and Google to Huffington Post itself.

 Finally, I would encourage you to read the leaked document as it serves as it clearly explains our position on a number of questions that people might have. It is not as dramatic as the HuffPo article 🙂

I hope that clarifies. Please let me know if you have further questions.



I have read all internal documents word by word, the fact remains you did not plan  to  reach  to me and many other progressive users about the change you were going to embark upon. What these leaked documents revealed goes much beyond that, inclusive of embracing those who want to work against those very causes.  This part of internal document which  I produce below  proves  how your are turning from left to right . How will  you  justify while accepting paid promotions from conservative organizations. After all, conservatives don’t want change. That’s a progressive value. Conservatives want things to remain  the same. Corporations don’t have to run successful campaigns on in order to defeat the good that’s been done. All they have to do is pay to run so many petitions that current users dislike to get those users to go away or simply stop opening e-mails about petitions.

The full internal Faqs are available here-rebrand-internalfaqs-change.pdf

Your Article in HuffiiPost on Oct 25 also has nothing new  to add to the understanding at all  . In the name of openness now you say YES to-Republican campaigns, soon  I will find a campaign to endorse a legitimate rape ,  Astroturfing campaigns, Corporations.  About Hate groups – you say If a large organization like the The Southern Poverty Law Center( SPLC )says they’re a hate group its a NO , but otherwise yes. For –Anti-abortion, Pro-gun, Union-busting, Animal cruelty is Yes. and you say “We are open to organizations that represent all points of view, including those with which we personally (and strongly) disagree.

Your advertising policy shift demonstrates the potential perils of for-profit companies founded on progressive values, and shows the power of money . You have literally betrayed all the active users of, including me and taken advantage of our issues and petitions for increasing your own database. As a business and a company   you have every right to pivot and change  your brand  positioning. However, under the garb of ‘   you are actually helping further the work of those who we are working to organize against. For eg – with  this new openness, now anyone is eligible to advertise with you for profit. So after I sign a petition for gay rights, women’s rights and all of the other human rights issues, I might find a link to a sponsored petition that  I wasn’t expecting. Stop  Gay Marriages ! Give Legal recognition to Khap Panchayats !   Legalise ‘ Legitimate Rape ” !  Women should stop wearing skirts !

Its a big thanks to the Whistle -blower who leaked the documents for opening our eyes, and  you fire him from work, Wow, that’s very  Ethical, and you do not mention this at all in your article . Is  it’s  policy not to discuss internal matters even if they are public  . I must say, and the fact we are having a debate, is because of him or her , and my eternal gratitude to the concerned person .

You used to call the non-profits who have spent millions to  support  you succeed “partners”, and now you call them “advertisers”. Nice attempt to make it sound like these were simply commercial transactions.   You make it sound like selling names to the radical right is a grand vision for ’empowerment'”. Since when is suppressing the rights of women, ’empowerment’? That’s not a grand vision for good. That’s a grand vision for greed. It’s genius, but let’s be clear. It’s not change. It’s just doubling-down on conflict—clickable, lucrative, conflict-mongering—and calling it a business model. Isn’t selling opt- ins (a user opts in with an email addresses when they sign a petition) to anti-women or anti-gay organizations a corrupt act no matter how you sugar coat it?  With a very liberal base of users on your sight. Your claim that you’ve simply grown too big to devote the necessary time to check out each petition is a betrayal of your origin, which was based on making this a voice for the voiceless,  for those who couldn’t make themselves heard elsewhere over the money. What’s changed  ? You seem to have eliminated change in favor of more of the usual. You may not think that you’re selling out, but at  you’ve made a Faustian deal.

Its  time to bid good bye, and I do so  with by my last petition addressed to you only, to reinstate the Whistle- Blower and come out . I will not be participating in petitions  from now, but  I will definitely will be watching you , as you say in your article

“If it’s still not clear to you which version is accurate, I’d ask you consider suspending final judgment until you see the impact of our actions once the heat of the rhetoric subsides. Because while the impact that users have had around the world has been growing rapidly, we’re just getting started. And we’d love to work together to change the world.”

It’s very  clear to me where you are heading, and there is no confusion , now you are not a business for a social cause but  like any for profit , you are making money on our database .

Was a petitioner organizer in India

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

28TH October, 2012

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The (Auto) Rakshasa and the Citizen

June 14, 2012

A petition from an organization called Change India invaded my Facebook wall today right before – rather ironically, it turns out— my morning auto ride. The petition is filed under a category on the site called “petitions for economic justice.” When you open it, the image pasted below opens. A sharp fanged, dark skinned “auto-rakshasa” demands one-and-a-half fare. The commuter is “harassed.” The petition that accompanies this image urges the ACP of police to create “an efficient system” so that complaints made to report auto-drivers who overcharge or refuse to ply can be tracked. How, it asks, can “concerned Bangalorean citizens” expect “justice” if their complaints are not tracked?  We all must, it urges, “join the fight.”


Let me first say quite clearly that I do not mean to undermine the intentions and frustrations of those who launched this campaign and, yes, when the meter goes on without asking, it eases a morning commute significantly. The question is: if this does not happen at times (and indeed it doesn’t) then why is this so and what does one do about it? There is a lot to be said about the economics of the issue itself and I welcome others reading who know more to write about it more extensively. But this piece is not about that. It is about the campaign itself and how we articulate political questions in our cities. It is fundamentally about the easy, unremarked way in which a working urban resident and citizen – who is also, after all, a “fellow Bangalorean” and concerned with “economic justice”– can be termed and portrayed a “rakshasa” as if it were a banal utterance.


Our urban institutions don’t, in many ways, work. We know this, the poor have always known it and it seems to be the newly discovered ire of elite politics. We complain, the petition says, and “no action” is taken. This complaint is not unique to this campaign or to the elite. The narrative commonly told about our cities today is in terms of “failure” and “illegality” whether it is dysfunctional institutions, corruption, broken infrastructure or slums. I am not contesting these failures or the anger of the petition writers at it. There is, however, a “but.” It is, put bluntly, this: not all institutional failures are the same, not all crimes are equal and not all illegalities lead to the same consequences. Protesting against them without taking this into account is not just ineffective, it is deeply unjust. Let me take an example from housing. Rich people who build illegal houses make “farmhouses” and “unauthorized colonies.” Poor people who do the same make “slums.” In a campaign against “illegality,” only one of them gets demolished. Only one is called an “encroacher” and a “pickpocket.” Only one of them can be a “rakshasa,” the other gets to be a “citizen.”

But, the campaign writers may rightly say: “We are not against autodrivers – it is about complaining against those that overcharge.” Does then a campaign’s representation, these words, this cartoon (ahem) really matter that much? It does. These imaginations, names, words and aesthetics alter, narrow and limit urban politics. You cannot see a rakshasa as another citizen who lives in your city. There was an alternate way to run this campaign: to sit with associations and unions of auto-drivers and come to an agreement. To find out if auto fares are reasonable, high or low. To figure out community mechanisms to prevent non-metred travel. To, if that’s what came out of the engagement, support campaigns for metre fare increases as inflation, prices and petrol/gas increase. To work out a periodic shock-absorption surcharge for periods with very high gas prices. To find out why it costs four times as much to own and register an auto than a Tata Nano. To find out what the daily rental of the auto-driver is that he is trying to make in his twelve hour shift. To figure out why his fares are regulated though the rental he pays isn’t. To consider, quite simply, the auto-driver as a person and a citizen rather than a criminal or a rakshasa. To find out how the institutions the petition is angry at have failed him just as much and, most likely, with much deeper consequences.

Instead this campaign pits “concerned citizens” against “autodrivers” that are, as the image suggests, always already criminal. It repeats the mistake of multiple recent middle-class campaigns for “economic justice” and “social change.” These campaigns increasingly target a particular set of issues –for example, corruption or security – that should concern all of us but because of the way they are defined and articulated instead exclude what is a majority of our urban citizens.

Where do such images come from? Let me trace just one possible thread. In another context, Leela Fernandes has argued that Indian cities are defined by a “new urban aesthetic of class purity.” She was referring to new forms of elite built environments from streets cleared of the poor, gated communities and enclosed malls, and parks where one can walk and play but not sleep and work. Yet this aesthetic doesn’t just manifest itself in the built environment – it is part of an elite urban politics that cannot imagine the poor as fellow citizens. Elite and middle-class campaigns thus become something altered– they are reduced to the protection of what Fernandes calls a “lifestyle.” Not the Right to Life, but the Right to Lifestyle. In the protection of this lifestyle, the working poor cannot exist as fellow citizens with rights and dignities. Their concerns cannot be part of the conversation. They are “rakshasas” that take resources from the state, are the sole reason for public debt, encroach on public land, burden athe government for “handouts,” and pollute and dirty the city just as they take hard-earned tax money taken away from its rightful heirs.

The responses that these campaigns seek can understand “economic justice” only in the form of punitive and disciplinary punishment for the always already criminal poor. In this particular campaign, the only possible result is a deeper surveillance and harassment of auto-drivers by law enforcement – no other interaction is possible, no other solution is conceived. Herein lies the tragedy. What is this campaign fundamentally meant to be about? It is about what happens to a complaint made to a public institution about a service. It could relate then to other, larger campaigns about getting public institutions to work and be accountable to all parts of what makes our urban public. The autodriver is as interested in this question as you or I yet he is excluded, in this frame, from asking it. Worse, he is held responsible for it.

Read more at Kafila

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