Reality Bites: Is Change.org making any change ?
Ben Rattray knew he was on to something big when the website he founded, Change.org. The 32-year-old law school dropout runs one of the biggest sites on the Web for anyone seeking to pressure politicians, corporations or others with a public shame campaign.
The service is free, and with a name like Change.org the company even sounds like a not-for-profit. But it’s not. It was founded in 2007 and spent the better part of two years flailing around for a profitable business model until Rattray hit upon a clever approach. Since its creation in 2007, Change.org has become one of the most effective ways to get attention for a cause.
The site began as a non-profit social network for activists and a donation platform for philanthropic causes and soon evolved into a petition aggregator and blog. The blog provided a forum for causes and petitions while also publishing interviews with newsmakers.It took Change some time in those early years to find a reliable revenue stream. The company collected one percent of every dollar given through the site in the beginning, but in 2009 it changed its revenue stream to advertising.
In the beginning, Change.org carefully curated which petitions were submitted by sponsors, ensuring that the only causes in the site’s stable were ones matching the company’s perceived progressive values (though the company has never had an official political stance). Having received $42 Million investment by 2012 and another $30 Million from Reid Hoffman ( Founder LinkedIn), Bill Gates ( Microsoft), Sam Altman in 2016 its loosing touch with social cause and become a Data Analytical company.
But the truth is that when you fill out a Change petition, you’re giving your information to a company that sells it to the highest bidder. The popular petition site uses your well-intentioned activism to profile you and sell you sponsored content — and most of its 250 million reported users don’t realize it. Change isn’t interested in change. It’s interested in profit.Change.org had become “a lead-generation business disguised as a social-change organization for whoever is willing to pay them for the email addresses.” Beginning on June 30, 2016, Change expanded its site to include crowdfunding .Change ties fundraising to petitioning — once you have 500 signatures on a petition, you are offered the opportunity to start asking for money. Change takes a flat 5 percent.
This form of micro-targeting allows the company to use the data it has on its users to suggest petitions and causes they may be interested in based on their past behavior. Micro-targeting is used throughout the digital political world, usually to get out the vote.
Further, the site can track users’ activities across the wider web. In the site’s “cookies” section, Change says it uses AdRoll marketing cookies “in order to to tailor relevant Change.org content and ads to you on third party sites based on your anonymous online activities.” This practice is called “retargeting.”
Change collects data about what ads and products you’ve looked at previously so it can follow you to other websites and advertise those things to you on those sites.
According to a July 2016 investigation by Italian magazine L’Espresso, Change charges the rough equivalent of two U.S. dollars per email per sponsored petition at the low end of the market, under 10,000 responses. As sponsored petitions rise in numbers, that price goes down to approximately 85 cents.
How much is your email worth?
According to Italian magazine L’Espresso, Change.org is all but non-profit and sells user’s information to the highest bidder. In an investigation (link in Italian) the publication released Change.org’s client price list ranging from “€1.50 per email if a client buys less than 10,000, up to €0.85 per email if the number goes above 500,000,” for user emails used to sign sponsored petitions.
A copy of Change.org’s price list (Image: L’Espresso)
What is a Campaign victory ?
With a rough average of 105,000 signatures needed to break the threshold of victory, at least for the front page of the site’s “Featured” victories, that could cost a sponsored petitioner upward of $85,000.Change.org claims it sees one victory an hour. With 30,000 new petitions a month, that works out to roughly 41 petitions an hour. That means Change has a success rate of about 2.43 percent.According to the site, that means Change petitions have ended in 20,518 victories in 196 countries.
It’s an impressive total. Yet a closer look at how a “victory” is declared shows that Change simply defines it by when a user clicks the “declare victory; button at the bottom of their petition dashboard. There is no other standard — it’s purely in the hands of the user. In fact, the site’s petition engagement guide even suggests declaring victory after asking “Has my campaign gone as far as it will go?” as one of the possibilities for petition closure. Here in December 2016, for example, a user declared victory after an iPhone feature was added back to his mobile device in an update. It’s clear that the 349-signature petition had nothing to do with it.After declaring victory, Change recommends you either start another petition, get friends and family to start a petition, or support someone else’s cause.
The fact is Change.org the petition doesn’t go to any official authorities.
It’s the responsibility of the Person starting the campaign to fight for the cause, it only gives the mental relax to the people who are not emotionally strong. Especially in india your authority will not listen you untill they come to know that it will put a impact on our vote bank.
some positive impact of that:
- by signing you shows yourself that you are with that person or event.
- people who are with your circle can get the information about that.
- at last sign petition doesn’t put any impact on authorities but gives us only mental relax that we have done something right…
With venture capital funding, advertising, and data targeting, the reality of Change’s business model is at odds with its popular perception as a driver of societal reform. In today’s political climate, the site is being turned to by activists and those looking to push back against the priorities of the new administration. But why is a private company trying to profit off of that progressive change and activism—especially when that company’s record on affecting that change is so dismal?