The Internet age promises profound power of action by giving common people a digital voice. Sharing petitions and campaigns helps to get the word out. Yet there are debates over whether it serves its purpose and creates much change beyond the clicks. A handful can have an impact on political decisions.
Change.org has been at the forefront of the digital advocacy, pressuring politicians and corporations on issues from corruption, animal cruelty to discrimination. Set up originally by 34-year-old law school dropout Ben Rattray, it is now one of the biggest Internet sites in the world.
In Indonesia, it started in 2012 and expanded quickly. Large organizations pay to have their petitions promoted on the site, while individuals can post petitions for free. The simple process to start an online petition helps. It begins by answering questions like: Who do you want to petition? What do you want them to do? Why is this important? The petition is then shared on social media platforms.
One of Change.org’s most popular online petitions targeted animal cruelty to stop dolphin circus performance published in 2012. More than 100,000 people signed the petition. The circus claim to have rescued these dolphins, but in fact the dolphins are captured from the wild at around $200-$300 each, according to the petition.
Another one calls for tougher punishment against sexual predators, as the existing law the maximum sentence is up to 15 years.
“When it comes to our children, there should be no compromise. There should be no mercy for these offenders and there should be no room for them in our world and most importantly the world of our children. I am just a mother. A mother that cares and die a little inside every time I hear and read these stories. Please help me. Spread this petition to help protect our children.” The petition garnered more than 82,000 signatures.
One of the most recent petitions on Change.org is one rejecting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ideology and atrocities to develop and spread in Indonesia. The Islamic State is a group whose ambitions are largely political, using brutality, persecution of minorities to suicide attacks. The group committed plenty of violence since it formed in Syria in March 2013. The Indonesian government has officially banned the group earlier this week, a move that might not be influenced by the online petition.
But, we think the click is a beginning to put some important issues in public agenda. At the least it brings attention to the issues. Participating in a cause gives people a change to feel empowered, and that itself is a positive step towards change. It is definitely a good start.