Texas online newsite, the Star Telegram, has featured Gopetition.com and the growth and popularity of various online petitions. The article is reproduced in part below:


Posted on Wed, Oct. 16, 2002

Sign on the dot-com line

By Helen Bryant

You name it and there’s an online petition for or against it. Even Spongebob Squarepants has a devoted
following trying to save Tv’s favorite sponge.

spongeBob squarePants is a popular guy—er, sponge.

An online petition to save spongeBob is currently the No.1 petition on a petition-hosting Web site called
gopetition .com .

What, you didn’t know spongeBob needed saving? Apparently there’s a rumor that the creator of
Nickelodeon television’s animated invertebrate is giving some thought to not creating any more
episodes. An online petition bearing 12,141, no 12,142, no 12,143 --well, you get the idea—e-
signatures thinks he should shut up and draw sponges.

Not too long ago, each one of those 12,OOO-plus people would have had to take pen in hand and write a
letter pleading for the life of spongeBob. Probably few of them would have made that effort. But now,
an online petition makes signing onto the idea as simple as one click.

Online petitions have taken off in a big way. There are many thousands, some hosted privately and
others hosted by an official petition Web site such as www.gopetition.com or www.petitiononline.com.

There are reams of petitions to the president, to governors, to television executives and to sports

Petitions seek to save everything from spongeBob to San Francisco’s neighborhood movie theaters to,
of course, whales.

There are petitions to ban everything from fur coats to terrorists to, inexplicably, whales.

A guy named Steve in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has launched a petition to get the Subway sandwich chain
to go back to cutting a wedge out of the middle of its bread rather than just slicing it.

There are petitions to promote abetter seeding system for the Canoe Polo World Championship; to
make actor Chad Brannon grow a goatee for his role on General Hospital; to launch a Major League
Baseball team in Indiana; to make Britney Spears cover up; and to let Britney Spears wear whatever
she wants. (At last check, the cover-up-Britney contingent was winning, 1,964 to 831.)

And, of course, there’s a petition for world peace. No doubt, numerous former Miss Americas are among
the thousands who’ve signed.

It would appear that for every opinion held, there is a petition being circulated online.

Some are highly popular causes (bomb Ira,q; don’t bomb Iraq). Others are more original, to wit:
”We, the people living in the undergarments of all One Armed Ponies currently listed in Forbes
Magazine, would like to request that all One Legged Weasels Born Under the Right Side of a
Watermelon quietly yet swiftly and gingerly relocate all cheddar cheese that they may own to a barn
that will henceforth be known as ‘OJ simpson’s House.’ Thank you and may fungus infect all Red necked
hens that mayor may not cross your path.”

One hundred people signed that.

The Web sites www.petitiononline.com and www.gopetition.com host thousands of petitions directed at everyone from the president of the United States to the city council of Des Moines, Iowa, which is being petitioned to quit making people stop dancing at 2 a.m.

Texans, as you might imagine, are weighing in heavily on the petition circuit.

On a typical recent day, there were 79 Texas petitions on petitiononline.com. Although a few were
about such diverse topics as midwifery (for it), dog vivisection (against it) and protection of snails,
beetles and snakes at the expense of roads and houses (against it), most of the petitions are directed at
r Gov. Rick Perry and seek either abolishment of the death penalty or commutation of an individual’s
I death sentence.

Governor’s office spokesman Gene Acufia said that though many individual e-mails are received daily,
he couldn’t locate any petitions that appeared to spring from such online services as petitiononline.com
or gopetition.com.

“None of those services sound familiar to our people who handle e-mail,” Acufia said, but he added that
perhaps the petitions would arrive printed out rather than through e-mail, because there is no official e-
mail for the governor. Anyone wishing to e-mail Perry must log on to the governor’s Web site and fill out
a form. This process wouldn’t be easy for someone trying to convey thousands of signatures.

Besides, it’s hard to say whether a given petition was started on one of the online services, because
each makes it the petitioner’s responsibility to deliver the petition. And because of that, it’s impossible
to say how many of these petitions actually get to their targets.

Signature validation is the other big issue, and petitiononline.com acknowledges in its frequently-asked-
questions section that the system is far from foolproof. The service does automatically purge duplicate

At least some online petitions do find their mark, though it’s hard to tell how much of an impact they
wind up having.

The Lifetime cable television station in March began collecting signatures on an online petition, based at
its www.lifetime.com Web site, backing proposed legislation requiring insurance companies to allow at
least a 48-hour hospital stay for mastectomy patients. The signatures are being delivered to Rep. Rosa
DeLauro, D-Conn., the bill’s sponsor. In August, DeLauro wrote a letter to her colleagues in Congress
pointing out the huge public demand for such a law.

However, House and Senate versions of patients’ rights bills are at odds, and so far a compromise
hasn’t been reached.

The gopetition.com Web site folks e-mailed several testimonials that indicate their petitions have stirred
up, at the very least, a lot of discussion. Included was a note from spongeBob petitioner Pamela
Hammersley, who wrote: “I think we have a definite chance of impacting the Nick Studios decision.”

One recent online petition clearly landed with a bass-enhanced thud.

When the TV show Soul Train awarded 21-year-old R&B singer Ashanti its Lady of Soul Aretha Franklin
Award, at least 32,050 people were compelled to sign a petition objecting to the selection.

Soul Train was not impressed. A posting on the show’s Web site expresses regret that “mud-slinging
petition signers and a handful of hateful and negative e-mail writers have nothing better to do with the
precious time they all have left on Earth.”

At least the petition got noticed.

One has to wonder what happens to the many petitions that, as opposed to being hosted online, are
sent from person to person via e-mail. Many of these e-mails are really more chain letter than petition:
The recipient is asked to add his or her name to the bottom, then forward the petition to all his or her

Around and around and around it goes, but where does it stop? Nobody knows.

Maybe we all just like registering our opinions. That way, we’re technically on record. We are in favor of
world peace. Long live SpongeBob.

Petition wish list

For every thing (turn, turn, turn) there is a petition (turn, turn, turn). It’s our turn. Here are some
petitions we’d like to send :

To: Grocery stores and bookstores everywhere

We, the undersigned, demand that for every cash register you install in your store, you hire an
employee to actually check out groceries or books, as the case may be.

To: Martie Maguire, Dixie Chick

We, the undersigned, would like to see you eat something and get some meat on those bones.

To: Television weather forecasters

We, the undersigned, would like you to forgo use of the words “What a difference a day (or week or
whatever) makes” in constantly bewildered reaction to the fact that from one day to the next, the
weather changes.

To: Dallas-Fort Worth Airport

Now that you have the security thing under control, we, the undersigned, would like you to turn your
attention to the restrooms and control those toilets that flush willy-nilly whenever the mood strikes

To: The Texas Department of Transportation, Tarrant County, the city of Fort Worth and all
other entities with jurisdiction over roads

We, the undersigned, would like to get from here to there. We must insist that, in your planning for
construction, you talk to each other and make sure at least one route between here and there and back
from there to here is free of orange cones.

               Helen Bryant.