Which petitions have you signed? Or more importantly, how many have you signed recently? No doubt you heard about the petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson to the BBC. Perhaps you signed the petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK. From removing Katie Hopkins as a columnist to demanding the deactivation of a YouTuber’s channel, petitions are a rapidly increasing trend.
Countless numbers have gained mass popularity on websites such as change.org and ipetition. It’s the latest way to try and make a difference. You can make change simply by pressing a few buttons from the safety of your bed. No need to go out onto the street and protest. Posters are outdated and placards take too long to make.
However, let’s just think about something: is this new trend really effective? If such an act were to work, Snoop Dogg could narrate Planet Earth, replacing David Attenborough himself.
So how does the online petition work? Ultimately, the more people who sign-up to a particular petition online, the more likely the Government or company is to respond or be made accountable. If a petition gets over 100,000 signatures in the UK, the House of Commons is expected to debate the issue. Surely this is a fair deal.
Yet, the burning question still remains: does this actually do anything for the issue? Take the petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK, for instance. It was actively debated in the House of Commons and, of course, the consensus was no. Why stoop to the man’s level by banning him from our country when he is trying to ban Muslims from entering the United States?
Despite discussion, the House of Commons still has the power to say no. Whilst it is important to draw attention to important issues, a massive petition could become entirely fruitless when the only achievement is a debate. Where is the power in that?
If the online petition does make a difference, we might have to worry about keyboard warriors. There are two main issues here: the real passion of those who sign petitions and the possibility that ridiculous demands may get out of hand. Many people would happily sign a petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK, but how many of those would actually go out and protest?
What if the UK was to ban Donald Trump? It would display all the wrong messages, and really makes you think. Anyone can make a petition for anything, from demanding free ice-cream every day, to getting rid of UK gun law. It only takes 100,000 signatures for a debate and that is one step closer to wild and uninformed opinions being taken seriously.
Some of the petitions with the most signatures are the ones where petitioning isn’t the only action being made. Laura Coryton took to the streets - as well as the world wide web - for her campaign to end "tampon tax." The Internet might be a good way of getting the word out there, but the real push comes from active, passionate campaigning.
Really, it is no surprise how popular the online petition is. After all, it’s so peaceful, simple, and easy to market on social media. Though while there have been some success stories, it’s hard to say how far those campaigns were driven by a simple petition.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. So, by all means sign away - but don’t expect miracles.
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