Over the past year, MoveOn has increasingly focused on building progressive power by investing in and developing our open campaigning platform, MoveOn Petitions, which anyone can use to start and run an online petition campaign.
Literally thousands of MoveOn members are now starting progressive petitions each month. More than 4,000 petitions were created in November alone. Not every petition becomes an active campaign, but thousands of them have — fueling a real wave of progressive change in America. You can see some of the victories MoveOn members have achieved with the help of our platform in this video.
In the wake of the recent, successful campaign for marriage equality in Hawaii, in which MoveOn members and local MoveOn Councils played a big role (hooray – and congratulations!), some members have contacted MoveOn staff to ask questions and express concern about the fact that we don’t remove conservative petitions from the site. Marriage equality advocates in Hawaii used MoveOn Petitions to demonstrate widespread support, but opponents aiming to thwart the march to equality in Hawaii also created several petitions on our platform, including one that got a fair number of signatures. MoveOn staff and members with concerns have subsequently had several good conversations, and some MoveOn members concerned about the open nature of the platform have even used MoveOn Petitions to make their voices heard.
The purpose of this post is to address some of those questions, as well as to update members on some decisions about how the platform will function moving forward. We’ve made these decisions after listening closely to our members’ thoughtful and constructive feedback. These decisions will make our platform even less hospitable to petitions that advocate right-wing causes.
First though, I want to explain why a platform that was explicitly designed for and continues to exist for the purpose of bringing about more progressive change is open to petitions of any political or ideological persuasion, and why we don’t take down right-wing petitions. (See this October 2012 Huffington Post piece for more about our platform’s fundamentally progressive orientation.) There are several reasons – none of which have changed in the time since we launched our platform. Here are some of the most significant:
There are of course costs and benefits to our policy of running an open platform, but it’s our judgment that the benefits of keeping our platform open far outweigh the costs – and that keeping the MoveOn Petitions site open to different points of view ultimately does more to advance progressive causes than it does to hinder them.
All that said, the MoveOn members who have contacted me and other staff to express their concerns have made important points and highlighted opportunities for improvement. I’ve appreciated their frank and considered feedback, and the conversations we’ve had have led to decisions to make several changes that will make MoveOn Petitions even harder for those with right-wing views to take advantage of. Here are some of the changes we are now implementing:
With these changes, the odds that any non-progressive campaign would benefit from a MoveOn Petition are close to nil. All that petition creators from the right will be able to do is post their opinion, recruit signers on their own, and contact those signers – things they could do using any number of other sites that offer the same functionality. We won’t help them to organize, or provide any of the forms of support we provide to progressive petition creators — which are the core of what makes our toolset and platform powerful. And we’ll make clearer that non-progressive petitions do not have MoveOn members’ support. The line is, functional utility for everyone (for the very basic toolset) — but active support only for petitions that aren’t clearly right-wing.
I want to thank all of the MoveOn members who have engaged with staff on this question. If you’re a MoveOn member who is reading about this issue for the first time, I and the rest of the MoveOn staff would welcome your feedback too, which you can provide via our contact form.