The message on the website says it will return in January with responses to the petitions that merit it.
The White House will take down the “We the People” petition tool from its website this week, but promised to reboot it in late January as a new site.
Launched by President Barack Obama in 2011, the platform gives the public an opportunity to petition the White House on various issues, and petitions that garner 100,000 signatures are supposed to command a White House response.
Various reports have questioned the effectiveness of the platform—the Obama administration once famously responded to a petition to build a Star Wars-style Death Star—but it has been all but forgotten under the Trump administration. None of the 17 petitions garnering the 100,000 signature threshold—including one to force President Donald Trump to release his tax returns—have received a response.
Still, transparency advocates criticized the move. In a Twitter thread, the Sunlight Foundation suggested the shuttering was more evidence of the administration’s lack of transparency with the public. An unnamed White House official told the Associated Press about the platform’s removal but told them the rebooted site would save taxpayers $1.3 million annually.
“The Trump administration never responded to any of the 17 petitions that passed the state threshold. Nothing prevented a reply. They simply ignored the public,” the Sunlight Foundation said.
“All existing petitions and associated signatures have been preserved and will be available when the site is relaunched,” the We the People site reads. “Following the site's relaunch, petitions that have reached the required number of signatures will begin receiving responses.”