Sending email petitions

If you are reading this page, there is a good chance you just sent me an email petition and got back a link to this page.

To start off, I may like to help with the cause. Unfortunately I can’t do it by forwarding on your message.

Why I choose not to forward on these requests?

  1. First, petition email feels a lot like spam. It’s unsolicited email with a purpose. I appreciate that the purpose isn’t commercial, but it’s still not the kind of email I want to send out. If I do send out email asking people to do something for a cause, I point them to a web page.
  2. Email petitions have a lot of problems that make them very ineffective.
    • Since you are sending the same list to everyone, there are lots of duplicate names circulating around. It would be a significant challenge (if not impossible) for the recipient to sort this out and remove the duplicates.
    • The names on the list can’t be verified and could easily be forged. I find it hard to believe email petitions would carry the same weight as a paper petitions for this reason.
    • Email petitions tend to circulate well after their cause has run out. Any email petition should have a defined end date. Otherwise it will probably circulate forever.
    • The cause of the email may not be legitimate. It’s so easy to start an email petition, and it’s so easy to forward it on, many people fail to stop and ask if the cause has some organized leadership.
    • Concerned individuals who may have done something more effective for the cause may add their name to the list and forward it on thinking they’ve done their part.
  3. I never forward chain letters, whether in email or on paper.

I gathered most of my research from a Google search for email petitions.

So what are you supposed to do about the problem?

There are several things you can do to help the cause. First do a little research to see if the cause is legitimate and if there is some organized leadership behind it. If there is, make sure everyone you talk to about it benefits from your research. Link them to the organization’s website or to facts about the cause. Help the organization setup a more effective way of attaining petition signatures. The Virtual Activist is a good website with information on using the internet to communicate your message.


If you feel that I am wrong, or have some information to share, please comment on this page. You’ll have to register, but it only takes a second. That way I know you aren’t just a spammer.

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