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White House petition site goes offline prior to late January relaunch

By on December 19, 2017

The White House petition portal established by the Obama administration is on pause, at the moment.

The site, known as We The People, allows anyone to make a petition and collect digital signatures online. According to the site’s maintenance page, the relaunch won’t change the rules or erase the site’s archives:

All existing petitions and associated signatures have been preserved and will be available when the site is relaunched. Following the site’s relaunch, petitions that have reached the required number of signatures will begin receiving responses.

A White House official told the AP that the new petition hub will cut $1.3 million in annual taxpayer costs compared to the original site, but those costs remain unexplained. In April, the Trump administration was openly considering getting rid of the site outright.

Prior to the Trump administration, any petition that reached 100,000 signatures would receive an official response from the White House (though there were exceptions). In 2013, the Obama administration raised the signature threshold from 25,000 to 100,000 around the same time that it answered a perfectly reasonable petition demanding that the White House construct a Death Star. Most petitions address more serious concerns, like calling for a civilian ban on the AR-15 assault rifle in light of mass shootings.

Originally launched in 2011, the petition site was created by Macon Phillips, the former White House director of new media and director of digital strategy under the Obama administration.

We’ve reached out to Phillips for his insight on the Trump administration’s claims around current operating costs for the We The People site and will update if we hear back.

In the meantime, the 17 Trump-era petitions that reached the 100,000 threshold remain offline, including one calling for the president to release his tax returns.