Rather that becoming a victim of citizens' burgeoning freedom online (just talk to anyone in the Mubarak family), President Obama is trying to channel online activism for his administration's own good. Last week the White House launched its "We The People" project, which allows Americans to create and gather signatures for online petitions to be considered by the president. Any petition receiving 5,000 or more signatures within 30 days of its creation will be reviewed by the administration and receive "an official response."
Sounds like a good, democratizing program, and already it's gaining some traction. Since opening on September 22, 32 petitions have already made it past the 5,000-signature mark. So what are Americans asking of the president? The chart below shows how many people have signed each of the 5,000-plus signature petitions, categorized by issue. Apparently, more than anything else, the people just really, really want to smoke some weed.
On issues for which multiple petitions are floating around, the number of signatures are added up for each column. For example, there are in all five marijuana-related petitions, totaling 94,705 signatures and making it by far the most popular issue among petitioners. Online activism for legalizing marijuana makes sense; people supporting legalization tend to be younger. One major theme emerges from the chart below: most petitions are on issues too left-wing for Obama to act on. These include repealing the Patriot Act, removing the word "God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and currency, recognizing the Occupy Wall Street movement, and ending legal personhood for corporations.
Our favorite petition of the bunch, though, had yet to be claimed by either of the major parties: "formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race," current with 6,328 signatures.