#India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, #Change.org – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism


Dear Ben Rattray

You  started  change.org ,to change  the world, you did made an impact on social change in last five years,in US. In the developing world especially in India , there was mutli-fold increase in petitions, in last one year. So what was different about change, which made it so popular?  The fact it was a business model, which was entering social change with a very transparent and accountable agenda . You are not a non profit organisation claiming anything, true, but you were  representing a progressive community fighting for social justice and change, fighting for human rights of people across the globe. You were using the power of business for social good. Also the fact that each petition was checked and there was a coordination between offline protest , campaigns and the online petition.

I invested  my time at change.org  by  creating many  human rights and petitions on change.org in past one year. There have been  small victories  Paypal apologises. There have been some big victories ,Family Matters taken away from Justice Bhaktavatsala, Amnesty International intervenes to Free Waqar, The Kashmiri YouthFreedom for Arun Ferreira behind bars for 4 years under draconian laws  , and some still continue to create impact like the petition for a  To Save Soni Sori and Punish Chhattisgarh Police & has had impact for international mobilization .

I have closely worked with change.org team on  many petitions, and also guided them  time and again on some other petitions as well, as I strongly believed ,in the fact, that they had taken a stand for social justice and human rights.  Change.org, meant business, yes business to take stand for  human rights . I  used to laugh at some of the inane petitions, which were totally ridiculous e.g. homophobic, anti abortion petition, as I  was sure change.org will not give any support, neither a push and the petition will die its own death. But your decision to change your advertising policy in the name of  openness, democracy and empowerment is nothing more than a facade. There was a certain element of  trust which has been broken  by the new changes in your advertising policy. Change.org  built its reputation on arming Davids to take on the Goliaths, now it seems that you think David and Goliath should be on the same team.

After reading the leaked documents, I was very disturbed and angry and asked the change.org team in India about it and I got the following email, by country head of change.org in India on Oct 25th 2012

 Hi Kamayani,

 as you are one of our most active users I wanted to reach out to you to clarify things in light of the Huffington Post and other pieces regarding our advertising guidelines.

Change.org’s mission is to empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see. Our vision is a world in which no one is powerless and making change is a part of daily life.

We believe the best way to achieve this is to have a platform that is truly open (like a true democracy) to all points of view as long as they don’t violate our terms of service – eg: hateful, violent, fraudulent etc. (full details here http://www.change.org/en-IN/about/terms-of-service).

We’re also extending this to our advertisers as long as they do not violate advertising guidelines http://www.change.org/en-IN/about/advertising-guidelines

This is the same yardstick that every tech platform uses – from FB and Google to Huffington Post itself.

 Finally, I would encourage you to read the leaked document as it serves as it clearly explains our position on a number of questions that people might have. It is not as dramatic as the HuffPo article :)

I hope that clarifies. Please let me know if you have further questions.

Cheers,

Avijit

I have read all internal documents word by word, the fact remains you did not plan  to  reach  to me and many other progressive users about the change you were going to embark upon. What these leaked documents revealed goes much beyond that, inclusive of embracing those who want to work against those very causes.  This part of internal document which  I produce below  proves  how your are turning from left to right . How will  you  justify while accepting paid promotions from conservative organizations. After all, conservatives don’t want change. That’s a progressive value. Conservatives want things to remain  the same. Corporations don’t have to run successful campaigns on Change.org in order to defeat the good that’s been done. All they have to do is pay to run so many petitions that current users dislike to get those users to go away or simply stop opening e-mails about petitions.

The full internal Faqs are available here-rebrand-internalfaqs-change.pdf

Your Article in HuffiiPost on Oct 25 also has nothing new  to add to the understanding at all  . In the name of openness now you say YES to-Republican campaigns, soon  I will find a campaign to endorse a legitimate rape ,  Astroturfing campaigns, Corporations.  About Hate groups – you say If a large organization like the The Southern Poverty Law Center( SPLC )says they’re a hate group its a NO , but otherwise yes. For change.org -Anti-abortion, Pro-gun, Union-busting, Animal cruelty is Yes. and you say “We are open to organizations that represent all points of view, including those with which we personally (and strongly) disagree.

Your advertising policy shift demonstrates the potential perils of for-profit companies founded on progressive values, and shows the power of money . You have literally betrayed all the active users of change.org, including me and taken advantage of our issues and petitions for increasing your own database. As a business and a company   you have every right to pivot and change  your brand  positioning. However, under the garb of ‘   you are actually helping further the work of those who we are working to organize against. For eg – with  this new Change.org openness, now anyone is eligible to advertise with you for profit. So after I sign a petition for gay rights, women’s rights and all of the other human rights issues, I might find a link to a sponsored petition that  I wasn’t expecting. Stop  Gay Marriages ! Give Legal recognition to Khap Panchayats !   Legalise ‘ Legitimate Rape ” !  Women should stop wearing skirts !

Its a big thanks to the Whistle -blower who leaked the documents for opening our eyes, and  you fire him from work, Wow, that’s very  Ethical, and you do not mention this at all in your article . Is  it change.org’s  policy not to discuss internal matters even if they are public  . I must say, and the fact we are having a debate, is because of him or her , and my eternal gratitude to the concerned person .

You used to call the non-profits who have spent millions to  support  you succeed “partners”, and now you call them “advertisers”. Nice attempt to make it sound like these were simply commercial transactions.   You make it sound like selling names to the radical right is a grand vision for ‘empowerment’”. Since when is suppressing the rights of women, ‘empowerment’? That’s not a grand vision for good. That’s a grand vision for greed. It’s genius, but let’s be clear. It’s not change. It’s just doubling-down on conflict—clickable, lucrative, conflict-mongering—and calling it a business model. Isn’t selling opt- ins (a user opts in with an email addresses when they sign a petition) to anti-women or anti-gay organizations a corrupt act no matter how you sugar coat it?  With a very liberal base of users on your sight. Your claim that you’ve simply grown too big to devote the necessary time to check out each petition is a betrayal of your origin, which was based on making this a voice for the voiceless,  for those who couldn’t make themselves heard elsewhere over the money. What’s changed  ? You seem to have eliminated change in favor of more of the usual. You may not think that you’re selling out, but at  you’ve made a Faustian deal.

Its  time to bid good bye, and I do so  with by my last petition addressed to you only, to reinstate the Whistle- Blower and come out . I will not be participating in change.org petitions  from now, but  I will definitely will be watching you , as you say in your article

“If it’s still not clear to you which version is accurate, I’d ask you consider suspending final judgment until you see the impact of our actions once the heat of the rhetoric subsides. Because while the impact that Change.org users have had around the world has been growing rapidly, we’re just getting started. And we’d love to work together to change the world.”

It’s very  clear to me where you are heading, and there is no confusion , now you are not a business for a social cause but  like any for profit , you are making money on our database .

Was a change.org petitioner organizer in India

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

28TH October, 2012

7 comments on “#India- Open letter to #BenRattray, #CEO, #Change.org – “Et tu Brutus” #kracktivism

  1. Still change.org does not answer the crucial question .
    They Kept Changing of their policy as secret. The usual business practice of those who value privacy is to announce it prior to users .

    I alerted you after the policy URL changed secretly

    Just take a example case in indian context

    Faking Happiness is a successful adbusting campaign initiated by Kamayani through a Facebook Group to counter Vedanta’s “Creating Happiness” propaganda campaign . Change.org takes credit of its success since the petition part is hosted on change.org . The strategy of this campaign was asking people who are participating in Vedanta’s “Creating happiness” propaganda to disassociate with Vedanta . Now with the changed policy Vedanata can advertise on Change and host their sponsored campaign in same platform and effectively counter Faking Happiness campaign. In short selecting a campaign platform like change.org becomes the major threat for same campaign . And this becomes more serious when users were not informed in advance when company policy changes . On the otherhand Change.org is selling the credibility and trust aquired through the efforts of petition organisors like kamayani in India.

  2. Thanks anivar also as you informed The altered/removed part of policy from their site:

    We accept sponsored campaigns from organizations fighting for the public good and the common values we hold dear — fairness, equality, and justice.

    We do not accept sponsored campaigns from organizations that consistently violate these values, support discriminatory policies, or seek private corporate benefit that undermines the common good.

    from http://www.change.org/about/client-policy (now gone and replaced by
    http://www.change.org/about/advertising-guidelines)

  3. Well argued, Kamayani. I agree.

    I need your help in filing the case in the Supreme Court of India on the Grave Irregularities in the Presidential and Vice Presidential Elections. This one petition which I have drafted, sent to the SCI and also printed in my 41st book Dr. Leo’s Lens will change the destiny of India.

    Please phone me on 28872741.

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  7. Dear sir/madam,

    Please forward this to indian government for proper action against violators as well as for protection of fundamental rights…

    PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES- AP, (PUCL)
    #16-8-908/7, Malakpet X Road, Hyderabad-24
    Fax /Tele. No.: 040-24414736, Mobile: 9440430263, 9396320723

    President Vice-President General Secretary Secreatries Treasurer
    Jaya Vindhyala. Ch. Narendra Iqbal Khan V. Prakash Dasharatam
    Prof. Chakradar Aslam
    Abraham Baalu Akkisa
    ===========================================================
    Date: 08-08-2013
    To,
    1. The Registrar, (Judicial)
    Supreme Court of India,
    New Delhi.

    2. The Registrar, (Vigilance)
    Supreme Court of India,
    New Delhi.

    Sub: Violation of Article 21 by Judicial Officer of Addl. Munsif Magistrate , Chirala, Prakasham District, AP, India-Action-Req-Reg.

    Ref: PUCL State President Mrs. Jaya Vindhyala Arrest and Remanded in Bailable Case Crime No. 75/2013 of Police Station 1 Town, Chirala, Prakasham District U/S 120(B), 503, 292(1) IPC & Section 66(A), 67 OF IT Act 2000 & Section 34 IPC, dated 12-05-2013.

    Sir,

    I, President of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Andhra Pradesh Unit by name Jaya Vindhyala D/o V K Reddy, aged about 48 years, Occ: Advocate and Practicing at High Court of AP, Hyderabad, A.P, India, O/o 16-8-908/7, Malakpet X Road, Hyderabad—24, AP, India, Mobile No: 094404 30263/ 9396320723, Fax & Tel. No: 040-24414736
    I state that being a State President of PUCL, AP took up public issues and some leader’s illegal acts and Atrocities of strong groups against the weaker and down trodden sections on several occasions state wide. In the processes of taking of the issues to protect some section of people from the muscular forces as well as political tycoons are so called NETHAS LIKE MANAVA MRUGAS are been chased by our voluntary organization on several times.
    That our organization raised voice against the illegal activities of one sitting MLA of Chirala by name Amanchi Krishna Mohan due to which such a MLA bored grudge against our PUCL organizers including me and by using his influences, he got registered a false case against our organization members (14) including me, for that the police registered a crime, Vide Crime No: 75/2013 DATED: 18-04-2013 U/S 120(B), 503, 292(1) IPC & Section 66(A), 67 OF IT Act 2000 & Section 34 IPC, of 1 Town Police Station, Chirala, Prakasham District.
    After registering the above mentioned Crime the Police of Chirala Arrested me on 12-05-2013 at Padma Rao Nagar, Hyderabad in the morning hours at about between 8 to 8.30 Am by using large number of armed force along with only one women constable forcibly entered in to portion which belongs to my friend house dragged me out from the house. The above said Police behaved like STREET ROWDIES and AREA GOONDAS with me and without informing to any one of my KIN and KITH LITERALLY THEY KIDNAPPED ME without informing me about the CRIME.
    That after shifting me from Hyderabad to Chirala they informed me (after 10 hours i.e. in the evening after 6 Pm) about the CRIME and alleged offences and subsequently showed me as arrested and also produced me concerned Addl. Munsif Magistrate for Judicial Custody on 12-05-2013 at about between 1930-2000 hours ie in the late evening along with case diary in which INVESTIGATING OFFICER stated offences all are the BAILABLE in NATURE.
    I further submit that the alleged offences all are BAILABLE in NATURE. Though the concerned Investigating Officer didn’t choose to FOLLOW the PROCEEDURE which is CONTEMPLATED AMMENDED Cr.PC U/S 41 and NOT SERVED any Notice with regard to the explanation of the Offences by BYPASSING SUCH PROCEEDURE CONCERNED INVESTIGATING officer opted to arrest me and produced before the concerned magistrate
    It is further states that on production of me before concerned judicial officer, I informed that I have been ill treated by the police personell while being shifted from Hyderabad to Chirala without any warrant by adopting illegal methods and misbehaved with me. Though the concerned Magistrate didn’t recorded my anguish and ill treatment by the police in police custody at the time, time was at about 8:00 P.M, since police threat I requested the judicial officer to put me under his judicial custody or release me on bail. Since it is bailable in nature it is discretionary power and by considering my situation having the authority the concerned judicial officer could have release on executing a personal bond without any surety, but my council was Mr. Srinivasulu and Mr. Prasad very much present and moved the bail petition and also very much ready to comply the orders of the honorable court during that night.
    That the concerned magistrate had not considered my request and my Council request and remanded me for 12 days for judicial custody and directed me to stay adjacent to police station, which was in his jurisdiction i.e. Police Station, Parchuri, where I faced lot of problems till next day morning. Then they shifted me to the prison, Ongole, Prakasham District. i.e. Mahila Prison on 13-05-2013 at about 7:30 A.M., on the next day i.e. 13-05-2013, my bail petition was considered in the late evening after 7:30 P.M and enlarged bail on furnishing of Rs. 10,000/- with two sureties in bailabale case. Where I am non-local women being an advocate and Human Rights Activists, no one local person came forward to stand as surety due to concerned MLA threat. Finally our advocate’s friends came forward and stood as surety and executed bail bonds. Due to putting heavy surety amount and considering bail petition in the late evening, I was forced to be in the prison on that night and on 14-05-2013 in the EVENING (BEFORE 6 Pm) I was released by the jail authorities, IT IS NOTHING BUT ILLEGAL DETENTION for 3 DAYS and THEY TORTURED ME MENTALLY, WHAT HAPPENED and WHAT HAS GONE WRONG WITH ME I CAN’T UNDERSTAND TILL TODAY. I AM an ACTIVIST of HUMAN RIGHTS and A RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN FROM THIS GREAT NATION, THE JUDICIAL OFFICER and STATE POLICE BEHAVED LIKE A LICENCED GOONDAS WITH ME, THEN WHAT ABOUT SITUATION OF ORDINARY WOMEN.
    It is further submitted to the higher authorities of Judiciary of you, please look into the matter and examine and enquire how the judicial officers have acted and violated personal liberty of mine which is given by the constitution of India as per article 21 and take necessary action and protect personal liberty of the citizens like Human Rights activists (like myself).
    It is further Submitted that due to all above acts of police and judicial officer, I undergone serious mental agony and I was degraded by the police and judicial officer being a human rights ACTIVIST, lady advocate, I faced lot of insult by State Acts and judicial negligence.
    It is submitted that I don’t know which institution could compensate whatever I undergone, a mental agony, insult, degrade from all these DAYS till now.
    I am expecting stringent action against concerned judicial officer and against the STATE POLICE (concerned investigating police officer) and protect the rights of citizens of the India.
    Please give reply within A week
    Thanking You,
    Sincerely Yours

    Jaya Vindhyala
    Copy to:-
    1. The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, New Delhi.
    2. The Registrar (Admin), Supreme Court of India, New Delhi.
    3. The Hon’ble Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh, High Court, A.P, Hyderabad.
    4. The Registrar (Admin), High Court of A.P, Hyderabad.
    5. The Registrar (Judicial), High Court of A.P, Hyderabad.
    6. National Human Rights Commission, India, New Delhi
    7. Amnesty International, London
    8. All Human Rights Organizations
    9. All Concerned Government Authorities & Executive Authorities

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