Kamayani Bali Mahabal, April 23 2013 , Kracktivism
l 23, 2013, Kractivism
“Every day, Change.org members win people-powered campaigns for social change”.
Just to give a background to those, who are reading about change.org for first time. It’s a popular and fast-growing website for petitions. In the last two years, Change.org 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 dot.org domain name to its declaration that “our business is social good” to its certification as a B Corporation, Change.org 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 change.org.
So here is an expose of monitoring campaigns of change.org in India
In India we have two petitions being hosted on change.org, 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 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.
Watch out this blog for more 🙂
- Expose- Loksatta Party Anti -Women, Anti- SC/ST shaking hands with Hindutva forces #Vaw (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- PRESS RELEASE- Statement on Harassment and Sensational Misleading reporting of TV channels #Vaw (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- INDIA: A Republic of the rapists, by the rapists, for the rapists? #Vaw (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- #Mumbai – After sexual harassment at workplace, woman faces online slander #Vaw (kractivist.wordpress.com)
April 24, 2013 at 1:04 pm
Hello Kamayani Bali Mahabal,
Great work to show mirror to everyone else, when you have been refusing to even acknowledge the existence of mirror when you are shown the same mirror. Your supposedly “Expose on Change.org” is nothing but a betrayal of your hegemonic, arrogant attitude which cries out loudly that your way and your causes for which you have become an activist are the only true and justified causes worth fighting for and rest everything is crap. Your posts of after posts promoting, feminist ideology, divisive social policy supporting reservations based on caste & gender, anti-NaMo attitudes really allow insight into the narcissist attitude you have towards social causes. And on top of that like all extremely arrogant people around the world in all cultures and civilizations will try to tarnish the image of everyone who is against your ideologies and even those who see merit in some of your points at a logical level, even though disagreeing with your conceptualized reality. Likewise, I see a very real possibility of you trying to suppress my comments in your blog post, even though I agree some your posts regarding environmental activism. If I may call you my friend, (because you are a fellow human being living in this planet earth) – please understand this – Activism is not a license to trample free speech describing ideologies and realities which you perceive as bad to your taste and unreal to your understanding of the world, thus compelling you to brand people supporting all those who oppose you as criminals or lesser mortals. If that would have been the case you wouldn’t have democracy in this world which allows you to become an activist in the first place. So have some respect for differing views and individuals and concepts that you have little understanding off with your limited capacity of min. And spare yourself from the anger, disgust and paranoia you have created in your mind out of your own thinking rather than happenings around your world. I haven’t given any example to prove my points here about your ideas and mindset logically, as I have taken the liberty to presume that you would not listen to logic. But incase my presumption about you is wrong, tell me and ask me. I will gladly point out logically why I wrote the first 3 sentences of this comment here, provided you don’t resort to hate speech and expletives, and as always I will myself refrain from that.
April 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm
Thank you for your concern expressed on Twitter. I’m writing this on my own because my views may not reflect that of the larger group. So far, with the Ejipura campaign, we’ve been taking whatever help comes our way. We’ve gratefully accepted cheques from corporate entities when we’ve run out of money for food, we’ve received help from people from as many varied backgrounds, we’ve asked for statements from foreign organizations and so on without the slightest qualms, because it was what was needed.
So far, the team of Change.org has been an ally from the start, helping the word go around, giving us advice, helping us reach as many people as possible. What I’ve seen of their India team I’m impressed with- they’re young, committed, fast to act and dedicated to building pressure on an issue. I’ve had phone conversations with campaigners at 1 am, juggled with ideas to keep what many might see as a 3-month old city story alive and help revive participation. This when many other activists who initially supported us have moved on to other issues, and as volunteer interest has flagged.
I believe that a platform is a platform (and a startup is a startup) and has a right to be as democratic as it wants to be. It would be interesting to see if the other side starts a petition and how many followers it gets. The difference lies in which battles the team chooses to support, and I’m happy we have been one of them.
I don’t really see activists railing against Facebook that has ads outright, where Garuda Mall has an equal right to start a page, where news feeds are flooded with sponsored posts, while only 1/10th of the updates from the several activist-y pages I manage get any views. Because we determine how we use technology, besides its constraints.
From my time in the NGO-activist domain, one of the biggest issues I’ve seen is dealing with contrarianism, where we spend too much time dissecting ideology instead of working with what and who works and building up a sustained effort with as many allies as we can.
Organisations are people- work, follow-through, and having your heart in the right place is all that really counts.
April 26, 2013 at 9:09 pm
I feel it is fair to have two sides of an issue on the same platform. Let people, time and to those these petitions are forwarded to take the final call. Why censor something in an open platform. I don’t understand your rationale.
April 27, 2013 at 7:13 pm
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… off-course there are enough people who love to jump into conclusion without going through the article… some of the stupid comments are larger than the article.
Susant Menon’s comment “spare yourself from the anger, disgust and paranoia you have created in your mind out of your own thinking rather than happenings around your world.”… is of an Ostrich who has buried his head in the sand… I can only tell him to come out of his cocoon and see things beyond your AC room.
April 28, 2013 at 11:22 am
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.
April 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm
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.
May 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm
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.org should 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…