Type of site
|Private (Nonprofit-owned, Delaware public benefit corporation)|
|Founded||Incorporated in Delaware on February 7, 2007|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California, U.S.|
|Key people||Ben Rattray (Chair)|
Nick Allardice (CEO)
(Chief Operations Officer)
(Chief Technology Officer)
(Global Executive Director)
(Chief Financial Officer)
Change.org is a website which allows users to create and sign petitions to advance various social causes by raising awareness and influencing decision-makers. The site is operated by a US-based non-profit company of the same name and claims to have nearly 500 million users as of December 2022. Petitions often focus on causes such general justice, economic justice, criminal justice, human rights, education, environmental protection, animal rights, health, and sustainable food.
The site also provides support and coaching for organizations and paid members to help further advance their causes.
Change.org was launched in 2007 by current chief executive Ben Rattray, with the support of founding chief technology officer Mark Dimas, Darren Haas, and Adam Cheyer.
In 2011, Change.org claimed it was the subject of a distributed denial of service attack by "Chinese hackers." The alleged attack was related to its petition to the Chinese government to release artist Ai Weiwei.
In 2011, there was a proposal to merge the Spanish-speaking counterpart website Actuable into Change.org; the merger occurred in 2012 when the voluntary union of Actuable users into the Change.org platform was approved.
By February 2012, the site had 100 employees with offices on four continents.
In 2012, Arizona State University decided to block access to Change.org in response to a petition created by student Eric Haywood protesting against "rising tuition costs at the school." University officials claimed that "Change.org is a spam site" and that the blocking was conducted "to protect the use of our limited and valuable network resources for legitimate academic, research, and administrative uses."
It was reported on April 5, 2012, that Change.org hit 10 million members and was the fastest-growing social action platform on the web. At that time, they were receiving 500 new petitions per day. On May 13, 2012, The Guardian, BBC News, and other sources reported that Change.org would launch a UK-specific platform for petitions, placing Change.org in competition with 38 Degrees, a British not-for-profit political-activism organization.
In May 2013, the company announced a $15 million round of investment led by Omidyar Network and said it had 170 staff members in 18 countries.
An August 2013 Fast Company article reported that Change.org would roll out features for petition recipients allowing them to respond to the petition publicly and create a decision-maker page where they could see all petitions against them in one place.
On June 30, 2021, workers for Change.org announced that a majority of staff in the US and Canada had signed union authorization cards in favor of being represented for collective bargaining by CODE-CWA and that Change.org had voluntarily recognized CODE-CWA as the representative of the workers.
On March 15, 2021, Supreme Federal Court Minister Alexandre de Moraes's impeachment request received more than 4,770,000 signatures.
On October 13, 2017, Ana Clara Leite was sexually harassed twice in taxis after drivers accessed her information using a mobile app called Easy Taxi. She won her petition asking Easy Taxi App to introduce safety measures, with the backing of more than 27,000 Brazilians.
In December 2011, a fourth-grade class in Brookline, Massachusetts, launched the "Lorax Petition Project" through Change.org requesting Universal Studios to include a more vital environmental message on its website and trailer for its upcoming film, The Lorax, based on the classic Dr Seuss children's story. The petitioners felt that the website and trailer lacked an important message from the book, "to help the environment." The petition collected over 57,000 signatures, and on January 26, 2012, the studio updated the website "with the environmental message the kids had dictated."
On the morning of February 2, 2012, Stef Gray, a 23-year-old graduate in New York, held a news conference at the Washington offices of Sallie Mae, the "nation's largest private student-loan provider", presenting the results of her Change.org petition, which had received about 77,000 signatures. That afternoon, the company changed its forbearance fee policy.
In November 2013, Aaron Thompson of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, started a petition directed at Seth MacFarlane to bring back Brian Griffin of the TV series Family Guy after he was briefly killed off in the Season 12 episode "Life of Brian". Thompson's petition gained 30,000 signatures within 36 hours. The character was brought back to the show a few episodes later. However, this was not a result of the petition, as the episodes were conceived months prior.
In September 2014, Karol Wilcox of Hayti, Missouri, started a petition against the planned execution of Beau, a two-and-a-half-year-old dog in Dyersburg, Tennessee, for allegedly killing a duck on his owner's property. By November, the petition had gained over 540,000 signatures. The petition succeeded, and the dog was spared.
On December 5, 2015, the U.S. Congress reauthorized the Zadroga Act, which provides funds to first responders "suffering debilitating illnesses and injuries due to their service." When Congress stalled on reauthorizing the bill, John Feal, an advocate for first responders to the September 11 attacks, started a petition in its favor that nearly 187,000 people signed.
The New York Daily News reported:
"Lifetime health benefits for sickened 9/11 first responders won overwhelming approval Friday from Congress after a long and contentious battle. The House and the Senate both voted to extend the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, giving coverage to those afflicted with Ground Zero-related health woes for the next 75 years. [...] In addition to extending the healthcare program for first responders and others suffering lingering 9/11 health issues, Congress renewed the Victims Compensation Fund for another five years to aid first responders too sick to work and their families."
After the 2016 United States presidential election, in which Donald Trump was declared President-elect of the United States, there were mass protests. As part of these protests, one California man started a petition on November 10, 2016, calling for electors in states that Trump won to become faithless electors and cast their vote for Hillary Clinton at state Electoral College meetings. The petition acquired over 4 million signatures by November 14, 2016, only four days after it started. By November 23, 2016, it had gotten 4.5 million signatures. The petition ultimately failed when, on December 19, 2016, Trump officially gained the presidency with 304 electors. The petition closed with 4.9 million signatures, the highest in the platform's history, until March 5, 2019, when it was surpassed by a petition opposing Article 13 of the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which held the #1 spot until 2020.
On November 3, 2017, Netflix fired Kevin Spacey, following sexual assault claims against the actor. It stalled the production of the sixth and final season of the television series in which Spacey starred on the network House of Cards. Following Spacey's dismissal, a petition created on November 2, 2017, calling for Spacey to be replaced by actor Kevin James began gaining many supporters. After its inception, the petition gained media notability, obtaining 50,000 supporters within eight days.
In the wake of the Logan Paul suicide video controversy, user "... - .- -.-- .- .-.. .. ...- ." ("stay alive" in Morse code) created a petition entitled "Delete Logan Paul's YouTube Channel", receiving more than 720,000 signatures. While numerous other petitions have been made for the same purpose, they have yet to obtain as much attention. No action was taken.
On July 14, 2019, an online petition titled "The Immediate Halt to the Construction of the TMT Telescope" was posted on Change.org in protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope. The petition gathered over 278,000 signatures.
On May 30, 2020, a petition titled "Justice for George Floyd" was created after unarmed African-American George Floyd was murdered by police, leading to mass protests. The petition earned over 19 million signatures, making it the most signed petition in the platform's history, surpassing the Article 13 opposition petition over a year earlier.
During the Depp v. Heard defamation trial, a petition was created to remove actress Amber Heard from her role as Mera in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. It gained 1.5 million signatures within a month of its creation in November 2020 and has since surpassed 4.6 million signatures after the trial was live-streamed publicly in May 2022.
On March 10, 2015, political blogger Guido Fawkes, whose real name is Paul Staines, started a petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson, BBC co-host of the TV series Top Gear, following the BBC's decision to suspend him over a "fracas" involving a producer on the show. The petition gained over 500,000 signatures within 24 hours, making it the fastest-growing petition for the site and overburdening servers at Change.org in the UK, which became unresponsive due to the high demand. It had gained 1,060,980 signatures by March 20, 2015, and was delivered to the BBC. On March 25, 2015, the BBC released an official statement confirming that, due to the actions which led to his suspension, they would not be renewing his contract with the show.
On March 31, 2015, Iranian prisoners were freed with the help of United Kingdom Citizens. Ghoncheh Ghavami, a law student at the University of London and a British-Iranian dual citizen, was in Iran teaching literacy to street children for charity as well as to visit family. She was arrested in June 2014 for attending the World League Volleyball matches after the Iranian government was informed of the matter by the International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB). Iman Ghavami, the prisoner's brother, created a Change.org campaign in a petition to the Government of Iran and the Government of the United Kingdom. He gained 747,476 supporters after public outrage in the United Kingdom began in support of freeing Ghavami.
A petition was started in 2020 to get fundraiser Tom Moore knighted. As of April 30, 1 million people had signed it. It gained 1,043,729 signatures, and he was knighted on 20 May that year.
A petition was started in 2020, to get Dominic Cummings sacked after it emerged, he travelled from London to his parents' home in Durham with coronavirus symptoms during the COVID-19 lockdown. As of 13 Jan 2022, the petition had 1,201,401 signatures.
On January 13, 2022, a petition to rescind Tony Blair's knighthood received 1,106,497 signatures.
In August 2014, Erica Perry of Vancouver, British Columbia, started a petition asking Centerplate, an extensive food and beverage corporation serving entertainment venues in North America and the UK, to fire its then-CEO Desmond "Des" Hague after the public release of security camera footage allegedly showing Hague abusing a young Doberman Pinscher in an elevator. In response to Centerplate not taking action after the incident (other than releasing a statement of apology from Hague) and an agreement by Hague to commit to performing certain charitable acts, the petition called for Centerplate to fire Hague. On September 2, 2014, after the petition had received over 190,000 signatures, Hague resigned as CEO of Centerplate.
On February 7, 2015, two 13-year-old girls petitioned to make consent a part of Canada's sex-ed program by stating, "In Canada, 1 in 4 women will experience at least one incident of sexual assault in their life. Half of these assaults will be against women under 16." By the end of the campaign, the petition had 40,484 supporters and met with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister Liz Sandals, which led to consent's integration into Canada's sex-ed program.
As of February 2016, 50 petitions have exceeded 100,000 signers. A petition against the "Loi El Khomri", a labour law project by the French Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, has over 1 million signatures.
On October 24, 2015, Marion, a victim of harassment at her school that led to her ending her life, was the inspiration for a campaign started to "train in the prevention and management of school violence and bullying with teaching and educational teams will be reformed and improved." The campaign raised public interest, and the campaign leader, the mother of Marion, met with the Ministry of National Education and had an interview with Minister Najat Vallaud Belkacem of National Education. The campaign had 79,432 supporters.
The petition to have death row convict Mary Jane Veloso released was the fastest-ever growing petition from the Philippines, with over 250,000 signatories from over 125 countries.
In 2018, an anonymous creator of a Facebook community against bike riders started a Change.org anti-cycling petition that shortly reached over 100,000 signatures. Allegedly, some of the names on the petition are fake.
In 2019, a petition was created to remove Senator Fraser Anning from the Australian Federal Parliament after his comments on the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. Anning blamed immigration laws, the victims and heightened fears of Muslims for the attack. As of March 24, 2019, the petition has 1,418,105 signatures, making it one of the most signed petitions on Change.org and the highest concerning Australian affairs.
On July 3, 2015, a 14-year-old girl began a petition to ensure that domestic violence prevention is covered in the Australian curriculum. The campaign was started to raise awareness for people who were unaware they were domestic violence victims. After the campaign, Minister Pru Goward announced that the school districts would introduce domestic violence education into schools. The campaign had 101,747 supporters.
After two earthquakes hit Central Mexico on September 7 and September 19, 2017, there were different petitions to force the "Instituto Nacional Electoral" (National Electoral Institute), the Mexican Senate, and President Enrique Peña Nieto to donate most or all of the money destined for the upcoming 2018 general elections be redirected to victims of the natural disaster in Mexico City and neighbor states of Morelos, Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Puebla. The petitions collected more than 3 million signatures.W
In early 2023, the Tibetan Cancer Society has created a petition called “ I stand with H.H. The Dalai Lama”. The petition was made after a video surfaced on Social Media, seen showing the Dalai Lama kiss a boy and ask for him to “suck” his tongue. The main purpose of the petition was for it to get on the government agenda and for the whole world to apologize to the Tibetan community because the video was claimed to be “edited” by the Chinese Communists Party to only show a short clip of the Dalai Lama asking the boy to “suck” his tongue with misleading subtitles. Tibetans claim that the Dalai Lama rather said for the boy to jokingly eat his tongue as it is a Tibetan Tradition, and Tibetans are calling for the media to show the clip of the interview with the young Indian boy and his mother as they say they were very happy after the incident. Tibetans and many more have said that “this is not a child abuse, it is the CCP trying to defame the Dalai Lama as usual and the whole world backing up China and their very illegal crimes they have committed towards so many in the world”. “ sticking your tongue is not sexualized AT ALL in Tibetan culture. When the elderly go around giving treats like chocolate and candy to the younger children, and when there’s nothing left, the children ask for more. The elderly say “everything is gone. The only thing for you left to eat is to eat my tongue”. They stick their tongues out, and when the children is about to bite their tongues the elderly pull them back, just like the Dalai Lama did” “ the world claims to be diverse and accepting of every cultures, but Tibetans have been betrayed by the world and INSTEAD of receiving support from the United Nations as Tibet requested when being invaded, they are receiving insults to their leaders and having to suffer more” “Tibetans stood alone during their darkest times, comparable and worse than the Ukraine-Russia war or Syrian civil war” and it’s still super rare to even hear the word Tibet from the media and UN. Tibet is the number one least free nation in the world. Also many Tibetans are saying that if you REALLY care about children, maybe you should care more about the one million Tibetan childrens send to residential boarding’s schools and being converted into Chinese. Chinas main goal is to “ TAKE THE TIBETAN, OUT OF THE CHILDRENS” The petition for supporting the Dalai Lama has reached 58,000 supporters. One of the most in Change.org history.
The following is a list of petitions that have reached or surpassed 3 million signatures.
|Petitions||Total signatures (millions)||Petition status (Success; Failure; Ongoing)||Ref|
|Justice for George Floyd||19.6||S|||
|Justice for Breonna Taylor||11.4||O|
|Julius Jones is innocent. Free him now.||6.6||O|
|Justice for Elijah McClain||5.6||O|
|Offer commutation as time served, or grant clemency to Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos||5.1||S|
|Stop the willow project||5.0||O|
|Impeachment request of Alexandre de Moraes||4.7||O|
|Remove Amber Heard from Aquaman 2||4.6||F|
|Justice for Ahmaud Arbery||3.9||O|
|Petition to make Kobe Bryant the new NBA Logo||3.2||O|
|Willie Simmons has served 38 years for a $9 robbery||3.2||O|
|Change KKK status into Terrorist Organization||3.1||O|
|$2000/month to every American (COVID-19 stimulus money)||3.0||O|
Change.org makes revenue through a subscription membership model and people promoting petitions on the site. In 2013 the organization’s CEO stated its mission: "Our role is to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see."
Change.org is a for-profit, "venture-backed company that hosts activist petitions written by members of the public, gathers email addresses from signees, and encourages people to circulate the petitions heavily on social media. While for-profit, Change.org is a public benefit company with B Corp status." It has raised $72 million from backers, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.
Donations through the platform do not go to campaign makers. According to a Change.org spokesperson, "The money raised from petitions goes toward helping the campaign win and helping us build and maintain our technology platform, making it possible for us to provide people with the tools they need to win the change they want to see."
Change.org members contribute monthly to sustain the technology and the small teams of campaigners who coach and support petition starters. Most of the company's revenue is from advertising; individuals and organizations who start or sign petitions then chip in to promote those petitions to other site visitors.
Change.org has raised $50 million from investors in business, technology and the media to date. In 2017 an investment round driven by Reid Hoffman helped drive the shift to the current business model.
After its inception, the website made revenue by running advertisements for advocacy organizations such as Amnesty International and list-building services to partner organizations. In May 2013, the website started "crowd-promoted petitions" that allowed a signatory to promote the petition by paying $5 to $1000 at the final stage of petition signing.
In 2018, Anne Savage, the CEO of Bicycle Queensland, claimed that a prominent Australian anti-cycling petition on Change.org was full of false names. She said Bicycle Queensland had received information that electronic "bots" created many names. A spokesperson for Change.org denied that the signatures were fake, saying that the organization's engineering team had double-checked the petition and confirmed there was no unusual activity.
Under certain conditions, signatures and other private information, including email addresses, can be found by search engines. Change.org operates a system for signature hiding, which works only if the user has an account on Change.org. Conversely, the platform has been criticized for not providing enough information on who has signed a petition, such as a means of verifying that a petition protesting a politician has been signed by their constituents or that the signatures are genuine at all.
Change.org is a Delaware General Corporation Law-organized benefit corporation and certified B corporation. This has resulted in debate and criticism of its use of the .org domain suffix rather than the commercial .com. The site has been accused of fooling its users and hiding that it is "a for-profit entity with an economic incentive to get people to sign petitions."
Change.org is being deliberately deceitful through the use of the Change.org name. I'd suspect that the average Change.org user does not know that Change.org is a for-profit corporation, and that the corporation plans on using the contact information being provided to them to earn revenue.
Change.org spokesperson Charlotte Hill countered this criticism in a September 2013 article in Wired, saying, "We are a mission-driven social enterprise, and while we bring in revenue, we reinvest 100% of that revenue back into our mission of empowering ordinary people. It's not just that we're not yet making a profit – we are decidedly not-for-profit." Its founder Ben Rattray gave a reason for Change.org's legal status:
Rattray originally planned to build a nonprofit, but that changed when he started talking to funders. "People kept telling me: 'We love your vision, but you don't necessarily need to be a nonprofit,'" he remembers. "They said that businesses have a couple advantages: speed and scale."
In 2012, the site dropped most of its previously placed restrictions on paid content. Internal documents began referring to "clients" and "partners" as "advertisers" and stated that "only advertisers strictly identified as 'hate groups' are to be banned." As a result, Change.org was accused of encouraging astroturfing and abandoning the progressive user base from which it initially gained traction. Additional controversy arose when the employee who initially leaked the documents was fired. Many of the users who lost interest in the site after this change expressed difficulty being removed from the Change.org mailing lists.
Change.org has also been accused of selling the personal data provided by the users to third-party companies that hire its services.
Topics for Change.org petitions have grown to include disagreement with the Academy Awards and removing milk from certain types of coffee. The authors of these petitions have been criticized for focusing on "first-world problems." The further debate over the content of petitions came in November 2014 when Martin Daubney called some of them "bizarre" and stated that the site was being used to promote censorship. In response, the Change.org communication director John Coventry defended the wide range of petitions, saying that "people make an informed choice in what they want to support." The following week saw criticism alleging that petitions about the media receive more attention than petitions about "saving 'actual' lives."
Change.org solicits signatories to donate money after signing the petition. Although the donation is optional, it can be misleading to users who may believe it is used to fund petition organizers or advance that particular petition. The donations are "unrestricted", according to its FAQ. As further reported, "Change.org keeps the money and uses it to 'circulate' petitions more widely and pay for its operating costs."
Over 140 former employees of Change.org published an open letter noting that "these contributions serve to market the petition and Change.org itself via billboards and digital ads" and, following the murder of George Floyd and consequent Black Lives Matter uprisings in June 2020, that "these actions constitute Change.org profiting from the death of Black people."
Change.org has attracted the interest of researchers working in the field of civic technology. In a quantitative analysis of the website's data, researchers found that while some users can be identified as natural "power" users, average users also learn from their experience; the Change.org recommendation system reinforces their willingness to continue using the website through tailored recommendations, turning them into "power" users. Research also suggests that petitions containing positive emotions have higher chances of success, while petitions appealing to moral and cognitive content are less likely to be successful. Another study examining a data set of 3.9 million signers of petitions across 132 countries showed that men and women have different policy priorities and that even though women create fewer petitions than men, their petitions are more likely to be more successful.
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