The Change.org logo.
|Founded||February 7, 2007
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California, U.S.|
(President and COO))
Number of employees
Change.org is a petition website operated by for-profit Change.org, Inc., an American certified B corporation which claims to have over 100 million users and hosts sponsored campaigns for organizations. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, California. The website serves to facilitate petitions by the general public.
Corporations including Virgin America, and organizations such as Amnesty International and the Humane Society, pay the site to host and promote their petitions. Change.org's stated mission is to "empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see." Popular topics of Change.org petitions are economic and criminal justice, human rights, education, environmental protection, animals rights, health, and sustainable food.
Change.org was launched on February 7, 2007, by current chief executive Ben Rattray, with the support of founding chief technology officer Mark Dimas, Darren Haas, and Adam Cheyer. As of February 2012, the site had 100 employees with offices on four continents. By the end of 2012, Rattray stated "he plans to have offices in 20 countries and to operate in several more languages, including Arabic and Chinese." In May 2013, the company announced a $15 million round of investment led by Omidyar Network and said it has 170 staff members in 18 countries.
In 2008, the organization partnered with MySpace to create an index of crowdsourced ideas for implementation by the incoming presidency of Barack Obama, drawing comparisons to similar approaches by change.gov.
In 2011, Change.org claimed it was the subject of a distributed denial of service attack by "Chinese hackers", and that the alleged attack was apparently 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. It took place in 2012 when they approved the voluntary union of Actuable users into the Change.org platform.
In 2012, Arizona State University decided to block access to Change.org in response to a petition created by student Eric Haywood protesting "rising tuition costs at the school". University officials claimed that "Change.org is a spam site" and the blocking was conducted "to protect the use of our limited and valuable network resources for legitimate academic, research, and administrative uses".
In response, Internet Campaign Director Josh Levy of the Free Press, stated that "disabling access to any lawful site violates the spirit and principles of Net Neutrality, chills academic freedom, and possibly rises to the level of a First Amendment violation."
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 January 2013, Jennifer Dulski joined the company as president and COO.
An August 2013 Fast Company article reported that Change.org would soon begin featuring petition recipients, saying, "For the first time, companies will be able to post a public response to any given petition (currently, they can only respond to the person who started the campaign). They will also be able to create their own Decision Maker page, which will show all petitions against them, the number of signatures gathered, and their statuses." 
On March 8, 2012, a petition entitled "Prosecute the killer of our son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin" was posted on Change.org. The petition received over 2.2 million signatures - at that time the largest number of signatures for any campaign in Change.org's history. The petition called for the prosecution of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, who, on February 26, 2012, shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, a suburb of Orlando. Zimmerman said he was acting in self-defense, and was set free without being charged. On April 11, 2012, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He stood trial in the months of June and July and was acquitted of all charges on July 13, 2013.
On October 1, 2011, Molly Katchpole, a "22 year old nanny with two jobs" in Washington D.C., started a petition on Change.org "asking Bank of America and their CEO Bryan Moynihan to drop its unexpected new $5/month banking fee" for debit card customers. Less than one month later, 300,000 signatures were collected. The petition was widely cited as a contributing cause for the bank formally announcing to drop the new banking fee. U.S. President Barack Obama signed the petition; U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, the Democratic senator from Illinois, responded to Bank of America and the petition on Twitter. It may have contributed to the U.S. Congress deciding to "look at legislation for out-of-control banking fees".
In December 2011, a fourth-grade class in Brookline, Massachusetts, launched the "Lorax Petition Project" through Change.org requesting Universal Studios to include more of an environmental message on its website and trailer for its upcoming film, The Lorax, a classic Dr. Seuss children's story. The website and trailer lacked the important message from the book, "to help the environment". The petition collected over 57,000 signatures (including Edward Norton's), and on January 26, 2012, the studio updated the website "with the environmental message the kids had requested".
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 where she presented the results of her Change.org, Sallie Mae, the "nation's largest private student-loan provider" petition, which had received about 77,000 signers. That afternoon the company changed its forbearance fee policy.
In November 2013, someone calling himself "John Doe" of Arlington, Texas launched a petition against changes made to the YouTube commenting system by Google. The changes force YouTube users to create an account on Google+ and also removes the "reply" mechanism on comments unless they were posted on Google+. This petition received over 100,000 signatures in less than a week, and over 200,000 within two weeks. The petition garnered more than 241,000 signatures, but failed to change Google's stance on the matter. However, the changes to YouTube did not have the intended effect - namely, increasing spam instead of curbing it - and in mid-2015, the commenting system was altered again to allow users to post comments without Google+.
In November 2013, Aaron Thompson from Tuscaloosa, Alabama started a petition, directed at Seth MacFarlane to bring back Brian Griffin on 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.
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, this petition had gained over 540,000 signatures. The petition worked and the dog was spared.
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 change.org petition on November 10, 2016, which called for electors in states that Trump won to become faithless electors and cast their vote for Hillary Clinton instead at state Electoral College meetings. The petition acquired over 4 million signatures by November 14, 2016, only 4 days after it started. By November 23, 2016, it had gotten 4.5 million signatures. The petition ultimately failed as, on December 19, 2016, Trump officially gained the presidency with 304 electors. The petition closed with 4.9 million signatures, the highest in change.org history to date.
On 10 March 2015, the political blogger Guido Fawkes, whose real name is Paul Staines, started a petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson, BBC co-host of TV series Top Gear. This followed 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 to date for the site. It had gained over 1,000,000 signatures by 20 March 2015. The servers at Change.org in the UK regularly became unresponsive due to the high demand.
In August 2014, Erica Perry from Vancouver, BC, started a petition asking Centerplate, a large 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 perform 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 from his position as CEO of Centerplate.
In February 2016, 50 petitions have exceeded 100,000 signatories. A petition against the "Loi El Khomri", a labor law project by the French Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri has over 1 million signatures, a record for change.org in France.
In 2012, Philip Matesanz, a 21-year-old German university student, started a petition to allow third-party recording tools for YouTube. The petition garnered more than 4.3 million signatures. This was the largest number of signatures in the history of Change.org until the record was beaten in November 2016.
In February 2013, over one million people, a figure equivalent to around two percent of the total population of Spain, had signed the petition calling for the entire Spanish government to resign. The call was motivated by an unprecedented corruption scandal involving the majority of key leaders of the People's Party, including the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy himself.
In November 2016, over one million people, had signed the petition calling for the Ministry of Education (Spain) to change a law. All the spanish students were frustated with this law. Finally it was removed thanks to Isidoro Martínez, the maker of the biggest victory of Change.org in spain.
The website makes revenue by running advertisements called sponsored campaigns for advocacy organizations such as Amnesty International and list-building services to partner organizations. In May 2013 the website started "crowd-promoted petitions" that allows a signatory to promote the petition by paying $5 to $1000 at the final stage of petition signing. For each dollar spent the current petition is linked as a related item to 5 other people who have just signed a petition. Change.org intends to limit payments to one per person, per petition.
Under certain conditions,[vague] 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.
There has been debate and criticism around the fact that Change.org is a for-profit business despite using the .org domain suffix rather than the commercial .com. The site has been accused of fooling its users and hiding the fact that it is "a for-profit entity that has 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 - it's that we are decidedly not for-profit." 
In 2012, the site dropped most of the restrictions it previously placed 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 barred." 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. Of the users who lost interest in the site after this change, a number of them expressed difficulty in being removed from 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, gaining money at the expense of the users.
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. 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."
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