This post is for all who send me change.org petitions, PLEASE STOP SENDING AND START BOYCOTTING change.org
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 mor etahn 250 petitions i boycott change.org
Below is letter I wrote to ben Rattray in october 2012, when they changed their advertising policy and also fired a staff member for leaking internal documents
Dear Ben Rattray
You started change.org ,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 change.org by creating many human rights and petitions on change.org 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 Youth, Freedom 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 change.org 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. Change.org, 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 change.org 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. Change.org 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 change.org team in India about it and I got the following email, by country head of change.org in India on Oct 25th 2012
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.
Change.org’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 http://www.change.org/en-IN/about/terms-of-service).
We’re also extending this to our advertisers as long as they do not violate advertising guidelines http://www.change.org/en-IN/about/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 Change.org 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 change.org –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 change.org, 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 Change.org 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 change.org’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 change.org 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 Change.org 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 change.org petitioner organizer in India
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai
Thereafter, in April 2013 exposed change .org on holding two contradictory petitions in the name of democracy
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 change.org 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 change.org, which petition’s victory will be their victory ?
Wait a minute,
whoever wins or loses,
it’s a Win- Win situation for change.org.
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 change.org .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 change.org
Change.org’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 Change.org’s business model comes into play. Change.org 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, Change.org 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.”
Change.org 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 change.org,
It’s time ….
If you’re a member at Change.org 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 Change.org 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.
And finally, in May 2013
Change.org 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, Change.org is ready to launch a new revenue model that is geared to consumers, not organizations. By targeting consumers, the change.org 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 change.org
This is how petitions can be promoted and sponsored
Promoted Petitions allow anyone to promote their favorite petitions to Change.org 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 Change.org 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 Change.org for Organizations to learn more.
My open letter to Ben Rattray, last October, was precisely about this , #India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, #Change.org – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism when they announced change in advertising policies that ,there is no confusion that change.org is not a business for a social cause but like any for profit , they are making money on our database.
Now after my expose. #India – Change.org : Campaign Victory’s exposed #Vaw #Socialmedia, wherein I bought to notice two conflicting petitions on the same platform. I did get a reply on a tumblr.com site ??? Wondering why change .org could not the responses reply on an official change.org site? Also the tumblr.com site with no option to comment , My question,to India director, change.org Avijit Michael, that by replying to me, on another change/org staffs personal blog , with no option to comment, this how change.org proposes to have a public engagement ?
The fact that it was only after I pointed out that two conflicting petitions, change.org 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 change.org and neither people are confused by allegations they are concerned.
Here is a Hoot investigative story on change.org and how it operates notes , Deconstructing Change.org
Change.org 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 change.org 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 change.org 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 change.org , 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 Change.org”
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 Change.org my belief on online petitions is shattered .lastly I perceive it in this way and that is , I think you also believe less on change.org , 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 change.org homepage so that truth must come out …
( Rahul Deveshwar on Facebook )
Change.org 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 change.org 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 change.org 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 change.org account (Satish Barot on FB)
” I am a little shocked that we bothered Mr. Tumbler. When I think, you own change.org. 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 change.org because we believed the organization had an explicit pro-justice bias in the campaigns it took on. Having change.org 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 change.org 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 change.org leaves me to conclude that change.org 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, change.org may well be a technology oriented, democratic organization, but that does not absolve it from carrying out unethical practices.
The argument that change.org 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 change.org 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 change.org 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 change.org 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 change.org? What would be the position of owners/facilitators of this space?
Request to change.org 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
Change.org has crossed the line between change-making and profit-making .
So people are not confused by my expose ,but more concerned !
Recently BBC exposed change.org for hate petition
Schoolboy’s Facebook photo divides Jewish South Africans
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.
Read mor ehere- boycott change.org hostong hate filled petitions