Change.org Pits Choice and Anti-Choice Against One Another

News broke yesterday of Change.org’s decision to open its platform to anyone except hate groups. Ryan Grim covered it here, Jeff Bryant here, and my own piece.

Initial talks between Ben Rattray, the CEO and founder of Change.org, and team members started in July. Discussions, according to an internal email, highlight the founder’s desire to open the platform for everyone… except hate groups of course! These talks happened shortly after progressive activists and unions pressured the company to drop StudentsFirst and Stand for Children. Both organizations are anti-union and front for corporate education reform. Under the new guidelines both could be welcomed back with open arms.

Matt Browner Hamlin highlights a hypocrisy in Change.org’s talking points and their own internal FAQ.

The implication expressed in Change.org’s internal documents, by Change.org’s spokesman Ben Joffe-Walt who Ryan Grim quotes as saying, “Change.org is “not beholden to one community,” and by the talking points circulated by multiple Change.org staff members on progressive email list serves all point to the idea that it’s simply not possible for Change.org to make determinations about which clients are or are not progressive. As a result, they are saying they are now formally stopping to make any attempt to limit who they sell email addresses to based on their “values.”

Yet, developers for the company are working on tagging and machine learning… much like Amazon can recommend a book or product to you based upon your past interactions (read: purchases).

Like this:

Tagging: we want to move from our current 8-cause system to a much more flexible tagging system. Once complete, users and Change.org staff will be able to tag any petition in many different ways, for example as “pro-choice.” We will then be able to show that “pro-choice” advertisement to people who have signed petitions tagged as “pro-choice” while suppressing people who’ve signed “pro-life” petitions. This is technically complicated, and we’re hoping to make significant progress in 2013.

You cannot offer people an effective tool for social change when opposing forces use it again you. Offering organizations this tool to fight against women’s rights and simultaneously keep a pro-choice group is beyond crazy.

This is like giving a person a hammer to drive in a nail while giving another person that is trying to take the nail out a hammer as well. There is no theory of change with this newly proposed open platform. It is a money grab. Pure and simple. Progressive organizations should abandon Change.org just as the company abandoned them by selling out.



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