In just one week, people have created 7,800 petitions on the We the People site, gathering 600,000 signatures in what a federal official called the "biggest online engagement ever" for the White House.
"Planning for the new We the People platform, we were confident the system would ultimately get a lot of use, but we expected it would take a little longer to get out into the ether and pick up speed," said White House director of digital strategy Macon Phillips in a blog post Monday.
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The site, which went live Sept. 22 and has more than 375,000 user accounts so far, allows people to create or sign petitions that call for federal action on a range of issues. The administration launched the site--modeled on one available in the United Kingdom--in part to inspire grassroots political action on the Web. It's also part of the Obama administration's Open Government plan to use online services and resources to bolster direct engagement with the public.
Due to overwhelming response, petitions now need 25,000 signatures in 30 days to generate an official response from the White House, Phillips said.
When the site launched, they only needed 5,000 signatures in the same time frame for this to happen. However, since in the first week more than 30 petitions reached that signature threshold, officials had to change the rules in order to keep their promise to evaluate them properly, he said.
"This many petitions challenges our ability to offer timely and meaningful responses to petitions in the long term," Phillips said, adding that the change only affects petitions created on the site from Monday on.
That said, more changes may be afoot for the website and the thresholds as people continue to use it, he said, and the White House also is considering user feedback to make future improvements to the system.
People can submit feedback about We the People via an online feedback form, on Twitter via #WHWeb, or email questions to Phillips himself on Twitter via @macon44.
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