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Snowden Petition Shows Many Paths to a White House Response

Kin Cheung/AP

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By Joseph Marks and Kedar Pavgi June 25, 2013

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News of Edward Snowden’s U.S. indictment and flight from Hong Kong helped push the White House petition to pardon the admitted National Security Agency leaker over the 100,000 signatures needed for an official response this week.

The petition on the White House’s We the People site had about 119,000 signatures Tuesday afternoon.

That post-indictment bump was a bit of a rarity for the 21-month-old We the People site.

Since the White House raised the threshold for an administration response to 100,000 signatures in one month in January, petitions have tended to find only two routes to success: Either they go viral in a big way for a few days and then taper to nothing or they climb slowly over the course of the month.

Petitions rarely lose momentum and then pick up again. But that’s precisely what the Snowden petition did. It dropped from 28,000 daily signatures the day after Snowden was revealed as the leaker on June 9 to fewer than 1,000 signatures on June 20. Then it bolted back up to 11,000 daily signatures on June 22, the day after the indictment came out.

You can check out a velocity graph of the Snowden petition signatures here.

We’ve compared it with an unanswered petition alleging fraud in Malaysia’s May 5 general election that went rapidly viral before tapering off. 

Joseph Marks

Joseph Marks covers cybersecurity for Nextgov. He previously covered cybersecurity for Politico, intellectual property for Bloomberg BNA and federal litigation for Law360. He covered government technology for Nextgov during an earlier stint at the publication and began his career at Midwestern newspapers covering everything under the sun. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a master’s in international affairs from Georgetown University.

Kedar Pavgi

Kedar Pavgi is an M.A. candidate at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. He was previously a Digital Editor at Defense One, and has worked at Government Executive, and Foreign Policy magazine. He has written for The Diplomat, The World Politics Review, and the Foreign Policy Association. He received his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, where he studied economics and international relations.

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