Has an online petition ever worked?

In recent years, the popularity of online petitions has soared, with individuals and groups using the internet to galvanize support and demand change on a variety of issues. From political action to social justice causes to company policies, online petitions have become a ubiquitous feature of activism in the digital age. But the question remains: have these petitions ever actually worked? In this article, we will explore the successes and limitations of online petitions and examine some notable examples of when they have achieved their intended goals.

Marchers with signs at the March on Washington

Why online petition?

Online petitions have become a popular way for people to express their opinions and push for change in various spheres of life. Whether it’s demanding political action, calling for a company to change its policies, or advocating for social justice, online petitions can galvanize a large number of people quickly and efficiently. However, the question remains: has an online petition ever worked?

The short answer is yes, online petitions have achieved some successes. One of the most significant examples is the petition that led to the repeal of North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill” in 2017. The bill required transgender individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificates, rather than their gender identity. The bill sparked nationwide outrage, and an online petition calling for its repeal garnered over 200,000 signatures. Pressure from the public, including the petition, led to the bill’s eventual repeal.

Success stories

Another example is the petition to remove Greta Thunberg’s image from a mural in Edmonton, Canada, in 2019. The mural depicted the young climate activist alongside other prominent figures, but some individuals argued that Thunberg did not deserve a place among them. An online petition calling for her removal gained over 7,000 signatures, but a counter-petition in support of Thunberg received over 15,000 signatures. The city ultimately decided to keep the mural intact.

There have also been instances where online petitions have led to changes within organizations or companies. In 2018, employees of Google launched a petition protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon project called Project Maven, which aimed to use artificial intelligence to improve drone targeting. The petition gathered over 3,000 signatures, and eventually, Google announced that it would not renew the project.

These examples show that online petitions can work in some cases. However, it’s important to note that not all petitions are successful, and some may not achieve the intended result. For every successful petition, there are likely many more that fail to make an impact.

The success of an online petition often depends on various factors, including the size of the petition, the level of public support, the urgency of the issue, and the target of the petition. If a petition gains traction and garners widespread support, it can put pressure on decision-makers and increase the likelihood of change.

However, it’s worth noting that online petitions should not be seen as a replacement for other forms of activism, such as attending protests, contacting elected representatives, or donating to causes. Online petitions can be a useful tool for raising awareness and mobilizing support, but they should be just one part of a broader strategy for creating change.

Has an online petition ever worked?

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In conclusion, online petitions have had some successes, but their impact can vary depending on the circumstances. While online petitions can be a useful way to voice opinions and push for change, they should be seen as just one tool in a broader toolkit for activism and advocacy.


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