I’ve written about e-petitions before. To summarize, I believe they are valuable tools in the digital public affairs toolbox. Among other things, they definitely help raise awareness of an issue and give people a very low barrier to entry to (in theory) support the cause. However, I continue to observe cases in which their implementations make it easy to challenge their credibility.

Chief among my concerns has been e-petition signatures that are often not qualified based on jurisdiction. That is, a signature from Spain protesting a commercial development in Toronto is generally irrelevant, yet petition creators will include it in the overall counts because every extra-jurisdictional signature helps make for an impressive overall signature count.

I came upon something new last month that makes me wonder if the public is experiencing fatigue about online causes or e-petitions as a whole.

Apparently struggling to gain traction and attract signatures, or perhaps hoping to secure one million signatures by August 1, Greenpeace has been promoting an online petition to get LEGO® to break its relationship with Shell as a contest in which each signature is an entry to win a prize.

In June, Greenpeace UK ran a giveaway of two pairs of tickets to the Glastonbury Festival. Another “competition” featured a Vivienne Westwood t-shirt.

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Last Friday, Greenpeace Canada closed entries for its “LEGO Contest” and will announce the awarding of a $300 Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) gift certificate later this week.


The giveaways were promoted using sponsored Facebook posts, an obvious and smart effort to attract contest entries (or e-petition signatures) from people who may be interested in the issue even if they aren’t necessarily traditional supporters of Greenpeace.


All of this calls into question the integrity of the signatures collected to date (773,703 as of 2:10pmET, August 5). How many are people legitimately declaring their support for the cause? How many are lottery players hoping to win a $300 MEC shopping spree?

I believe e-petitions and other online tools can be productive tools of change (see #TellVicEverything, KONY2012, Hélène Campbell, etc…). However, I also believe playing with the ethics of causes will only give people easy fodder to dismiss their credibility.