Internet and on-line petitions seem like a quick and easy way to make a statement. Unfortunately at best they're ineffectual, and at worst they do real harm.
A mailing list I’m on encouraged all its readers to go to a web site and sign an internet petition supporting some legislation we care about. I mentioned that to a friend of mine, and his opinion was that I’d been duped, and that it was a scam. Is he right? Are internet petitions a
Some are. Some aren’t. But they do, in my opinion, share a common characteristic:
Most are ineffectual.
And that can actually cause more harm that good.
Let me explain why that is…
There are several reasons you need to be extra careful, and fully aware, before you choose to use an internet petition to make your opinion heard. These are just a few.
- Spam – Many internet petition sites will ask for your email address. It can be a reasonable security measure to ensure that you are a real person, and to avoid “stuffing” the petition with multiple fraudulent “signatures”. Unfortunately it can also be an easy way for a nefarious spammer to collect your email address, and begin sending you lots of spam. Think about it – not only do they know your email address, but they also now know at least one issue you feel strongly about.
- Trickery – Along the same lines as spam, I’ve seen several ads, polls and petitions that, once you’ve signed or voted, are nothing more than a way to take you to some kind of sales pitch that may, or may not, be related to the issue at hand.
- Ineffectiveness (#1) – When you sign an internet petition, you’re relying on the provider of that petition to actually do something with the results. They may. Or they may not. In my opinion, if the petition site is plastered with ads, then I’d start getting suspicious that they were more interested in you perhaps clicking on an ad, than actually doing anything with the petition information.
- Ineffectiveness (#2) – Any legitimate organization that receives the result of an internet petition will, in all likelihood, ignore it. As they should. It’s much too easy to fabricate, miscollect or misrepresent data collected this way. Even for legitimate internet petitions, “voter fraud” is both rampant, and difficult to control. Any recipient of an internet petitions that “gets” this will, most likely, thank the providers of the information, and then throw the results away.
- Misguidance – Internet petitions make you feel good. It feels like you’ve done something. But, as the previous points all lead up to, you’ve likely not accomplished anything at all. But, feeling like you have, you may elect not to do something else – like write a real letter, or make a phone call, or make a donation. The fact that the internet petition might distract you from doing something that actually could be effective is, in my opinion, it’s real danger.
If you feel strongly enough about an issue, use more traditional means …
So what should you do? If you feel strongly enough about an issue, use more traditional means – write a letter, a real one on paper, and mail it – make a phone call – make a donation, if that’s your desire. The fact that each one of these isn’t as easy as an internet petition is exactly why they’re more effective. If you actually take the time to do these things, it’s clearly an important issue to you, and you’re more likely to be heard.
Heck – anyone can click on a link.