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White House quadruples threshold for official petition replies

Categories: Community, World

It just got a bit harder to get the U.S. government and president Barack Obama to pause and ponder your idea. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Just days after clarifying that the Obama administration "does not support blowing up planets," the White House has quadrupled the number of signatures needed on their We the People petition site to trigger an official response.

The government announced Tuesday that it has raised the minimum number of signatures from 25,000 to 100,000, explaining in a blog post that the popularity of the hub has exceeded their "wildest expectations."

"When we launched We the People, none of us knew how popular it would be," wrote director of digital strategy Macon Phillips.

"As we've seen overall use skyrocket, more petitions are crossing the threshold -- and doing so much more quickly."

It isn't the first time the administration has upped the ante.

Phillips noted that the minimum threshold used to be a mere 5,000 signatures -- a number that wouldn't even qualify something as "viral" in the internet age, where attracting the attention of millions is possible overnight.

He added that the "good problem" of increased participation is "only getting better," so standards must be raised for only the most popular ideas to elicit a response from the government.

"Starting today, as we move into a second term, petitions must receive 100,000 signatures in 30 days in order to receive an official response from the Obama Administration," wrote Phillips, adding that the new minimum won't be retroactively applied to active petitions, just newly-created petitions.

He noted that most petitions that crossed the threshold in late 2012 did so in an average of only 9 days - down from 18 days at the start of the same year.

No Death Star for the people

Since November 2012, roughly 73,000 petitions on the site have cumulatively collected 4.9 million signatures. About 2.4 million new users signed up with We the People in the same amount of time.

Some White House responses that have made headlines include:

Death Star construction calls silenced by White House (Over 34,000 signatures)
White House cites free speech in Piers Morgan petition reply (Over 100,000 signatures)
White House says no evidence of alien life (Over 17,000 signatures on two petitions)

Recently there have been a whole spate of petitions calling for seven southern U.S. states to formally secede from the U.S., as well as counter-petitions with cheeky suggestions.

On Monday, the White House said Texas will not be allowed to break from the U.S., a petition that attracted over 125,000 signatures.

How many people do you think should support an idea before the U.S. government takes the time to consider it?

Would you like Canada to have a similar online petition hub with a threshold tailored to our population?
(Here's how petitions to Ottawa presently work, by the way.)

(This survey is not scientific, results are based on reader replies)

Tags: U.S., World

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