We often get notifications by email urging us to sign this or that petition, usually created on a website like change.org. They normally have a target of 20,000 signatures or 15,000 signatures and the creators claim that after they have gathered these many signatures they are going to present a petition to the person or the authority they intend to carry the message to. But do these petitions really work, asks this New York Times article.
From the first and the second paragraph it seems the New York Times has its own gripe against such online petitions simply because one of the petitions urging people not to vote for Donald Trump didn’t exactly work despite getting 4.9 million signatures.
Whether an online petition works or not depends on many factors and simply because you have created a petition doesn’t guarantee that you are going to get your message across.
But I remember one of the change.org petitions working: it was about an old woman in Mumbai running an orphanage and who was on the verge of being evicted due to bureaucratic apathy. A petition was created on change.org and after collecting thousands of signatures, it was presented to the Maharashtra Chief Minister. Multiple ministers in the current BJP-led NDA government responded and immediate help was provided to the woman called Sindhutai Sapkal.
The biggest benefit of creating an online petition, as rightly mention in the above New York Times article, is that it helps you raise awareness about the cause. You create a message – a compelling message if you can manage – and then you broadcast the message to as many people as possible using mailing lists, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and various blogs. Change.org also allows you to share the petition on your own social media timeline while you are signing it. This way, a particular petition can go viral. This spreads the word around and even if the petition doesn’t directly work, it spreads the message.