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White House Raises The Bar On "We the People" Petition Responses

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, January 16 2013

The White House announced last evening that it would be raising the signature threshold on We the People petitions to 100,000 from 25,000.

The initial threshold when the program launched in September 2011 was 5,000, but it was quickly raised to 25,000 after immense feedback in its first week of operation. Petitions don't go public until the creator has collected 150 signatures through their own network.

"In the last two months of 2012, use of We the People more than doubled," Macon Phillips, director of digital strategy, wrote. "In just that time roughly 2.4 million new users joined the system, 73,000 petitions were created and 4.9 million signatures were registered." Altogether there have been over 9.1 million signatures and over 5.4 million users.

"In the first 10 months of 2012, it took an average of 18 days for a new petition to cross the 25,000-signature threshold," Phillips noted. "In the last two months of the year, that average time was cut in half to just 9 days, and most petitions that crossed the threshold collected 25,000 signatures within five days of their creation. More than 60 percent of the petitions to cross threshold in all of 2012 did so in the last two months of the year."

In the first few months of the platform's existence, it prompted some criticism for technical bugs and for responses deemed to be too canned.

But in the past several months the platform has gotten renewed media attention with petitions advocating the secession of states, various petitions responding to the Newtown tragedy and of course the petition demanding the construction of the Death Star.

In a video released last March, the White House noted that staffers met once a week to discuss the petitions that have crossed the threshold and that even senior level staff pay attention.

Phillips writes that the success of the We the People has helped drive a White House plan to develop an API that would allow other popular online petition platforms to integrate with the site. To that end, he announced, the White House has released the source code for We the People and is looking to connect with developers to help put that plan into action.

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