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I was looking at the U.S. White House's "We the People" petition website they had set up shortly after Obama took office, and noticed that most of the petitions are in the ridiculous or at least not feasible category.

I see there are responses to the petitions, but many aren't policy changes, such as the "White House beer recipe". And some like this one state things like "DHS is preparing a proposed rule" that seem to indicate that some action might be taken, or maybe has been taken by now, but it's not clear if anything has actually happened yet.

Have any petitions submitted through this website actually resulted in policy change (excluding super trivial changes), or resulted in any new legislation being introduced, voted on, and put into law?

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2 Answers 2

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In fact, there was a We The People petition asking the White House that very question: Are these petitions actually taken seriously?

This petition generated the requisite 25,000 signatures in 30 days earning it an official response from the White House. In their own words:

Each of the 97 petitions that have crossed the signature threshold so far have been carefully reviewed by experts here at the White House and in agencies across the federal government, and the majority have already been answered, with more coming every week.

As for petitions that sparked substantive change on top of a review and response, however, the White House points to two petitions in particular.

The first was a petition from animal rights activists seeking changes to the way breeders who sell puppies online are treated. This prompted a proposed new rule from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to crack down on this loophole.

The White House also highlighted their response to a petition to digitize federal records which in addition to a response prompted a conference call between the petitioners and the federal archivist to investigate ways to improve the process per the petitions request.

By the White House's own accounting, these two seem to be the biggest impact that these petitions have had (at least since October of 2011). In my investigation, I was not able to find anything more substantial since this response either.

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  • 11
    We hear... and ignore :)))
    – user4012
    Jan 15, 2013 at 16:38
  • 2
    @user4012 has it right. The Constitution actually grants citizens the Right to Petition the government. However the SCOTUS has ruled that this doesn't mean the government has to listen and/or respond to that petition (sadly, I am not kidding).
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 27, 2017 at 18:53
  • Now they have indeed realized that they don't have to hear petitions.whitehouse.gov/about
    – No One
    Mar 14 at 23:07
  • @NoOne That link doesn't go where you think it does. Just redirects directly to whitehouse.gov Sep 6 at 21:52
  • @zibadawatimmy that was what I meant.
    – No One
    Sep 6 at 21:54
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As writen in this wikipedia article there were just 6 notable petitions in the 10 years this petition posibilty has existed and only 1 seems to be resulted in policy changes. The petition I am tallking about is Cell phone unlocking bill:

In February 2013, a petition started by OpenSignal co-founder and digital rights activist Sina Khanifar reached the 100,000-signature threshold required for a response from the White House. Two weeks later, the Obama administration issued a response urging the FCC and Congress to legalize cell phone unlocking. A year later, Congress passed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, the first piece of legislation driven by an online petition. The bill was signed into law by President Obama on August 1, 2014.

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