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Change.org is an online petition platform which allows anyone to launch and participate in crowdsourced petitions. In 2012, the site surpassed more than 20 million users in 196 countries.
After two years of development, Change.org was launched in February 2007 by the San Francisco-based for-profit organization Change.org, Inc. In its first year, the site allowed users to search for nonprofits and politicians that are in need of support based on their political orientations, in addition to social networking functions such as adding friends, sharing photos and joining groups for various social issues and nonprofit organizations. On the day of the site’s launch, it was featured on TechCrunch, which likened the site’s original design to that of a social network.
The site was also featured on VentureBeat and the Nonprofit Technology Network in spring 2007 and by July, the site launched a Facebook application where users could easily access the site through their Facebook account. After President Obama’s election in 2008, Change.org partnered with social networking site MySpace to create a platform where users could submit policy ideas for Barack Obama (shown below).
News Media Coverage
Following the attention Change.org recieved from the Trayvon Martin case, the site began appearing in the media more frequently with mentions on NPR, the Huffington Post, Mashable, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, among others. Many of these articles touch on the for-profit aspect of the site, by generating revenue from the email addresses of users who sign petitions.
In November 2009, Change.org introduced their petition tool, integrating non-profit organization Democracy in Action’s government data with social media share buttons and embed codes. After transitioning away from its original social network setup, the site saw its first major spike in traffic after a petition was made in July 2011 to create a law to make it a felony for a parent or guardian to not notify authorities after a child has been missing for 24 hours. As of December 6th, 2012, the site hosts more than 350 thousand petitions, with 40,000 being created every month, which are browsable by popular topics, amount of signatures and most recent submissions.
The site has staff in twenty countries that provide translations in eleven different languages. Change.org maintains a presence on other forms of social networking including Facebook and Twitter, where it has more than 102K likes and 415K followers respectively as of December 2012.
Since its launch, a number of petitions have resulted in real-life changes, including a petition ensuring health care for victims affected by contaminated water at a military base and another urging schools to remove LFTB, a mixture of beef scraps and connective tissue, from school food.
Following Casey Anthony being found not guilty for the murder of her two-year-old daughter Caylee in July 2011, a handful of petition launched calling for governors to make not reporting a child missing after 24 hours a felony for parents or guardians. One in particular, written by Oklahoma resident Michelle Crowder gained more than 1.2 million electronic signatures within 14 days. In response, lawmakers in eleven states have proposed bills of this nature and as of December 2012, seven of those have been approved.
Bank of America’s Debit Card Fee
On October 1st, 2011, 22-year-old nanny and Washington D.C. resident Molly Katchpole proposed a petition demanding Bank of America to drop its $5 / month banking fee for debit card customers. By the end of October, more than 300,000 signatures had been collected on the site, including one from President Barack Obama, ultimately leading the bank to withdraw its plan.
Lorax Petition Project
In December 2011, a fourth-grade class in Brookline, Massachusetts submitted a petition titled “Lorax Petition Project,” which requested Universal Studios to promote an environmental message on its website and trailer for the 2012 3D-animated musical comedy film Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, which chronicles the adventures of the Lorax as he fights against the greedy villain the Once-ler to save the environment from its plight. Throughout December, the petition accumulated more than 57,000 signatures, to which Universal Studios responded by updating the website with the environmental message per request.
On March 8th, 2012, Tracey Martin and Sybrina Fulton launched a petition seeking justice for their son, Trayvon Martin, after he was fatally shot by the neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. In less than two weeks, it became the fastest growing petition on the site, at one point gaining 1000 new signatures per minute. More than 2.2 million people virtually signed the petition before it was announced that a Florida State Attorney would charge George Zimmerman with second degree murder. The trial is scheduled to begin in June 2013.
As of December 2012, Change.org has a Quantcast score of 1024 in the United States, seeing 1.6 million monthly users, and a global Alexa score of 1395. In September 2012, the site had surpassed 20 million total users, breaking 25 million in December.
The Huffington Post – Change.org Petitions Targeting Restaurants Gain Steam
Wall Street Journal – Change.org Tests the Line Between Activism, Profits
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