Slacktivist Inc

by Dish Staff

Nithin Coca considers the economics of petition sites:

Make no mistake, online petitions are a business too. In fact, the financial model of Change.org, which reportedly has revenue in the millions, mimics those of Silicon Valley startups. Offer something for free, then sell preferential access. “Sponsored” petitions are highlighted on the site, and what Change.org offers clients is its audience: some 75 million names, who are nudged, through emails, social media, and other methods, to sign those petitions. With each click, Change.org makes a profit, and increases its clientele base. Clients are often organizations with deep pockets: Amnesty InternationalSierra Club, and even the Democratic Party.

This profit model has allowed Change.org to grow rapidly and expand into new markets globally. There are other petition sites – the fellow profit-oriented Care2, nonprofits tools from Avaaz, 38 Degrees and Getup, and government-run ones like the White House’s We the People. All are dwarfed by Change.org in size as it turns into a behemoth, dominating petitions in the same way Google dominates search.

Sarah Albers despairs:

Local organizations, formerly the “authentic voice” of the community, have been all but eliminated in modern politics. The problem is not capitalism, but the lack of a meaningful way to act and influence others locally—namely, the absence of the intermediary social institutions of town, church, home; in a word, place. … Today’s political sphere has been atomized. The public has no voice, no agency unless it somehow finds a way to leverage its power in Washington indirectly. This is where slacktivism is so appealing. A click, a share, and you feel that you have influenced something, somewhere.