The Trump administration is reportedly considering disabling a website platform that allows Americans to submit petitions and receive an official government response. No petitions have received an official response since President Donald Trump assumed office.
In September 2011, the Obama administration established a petition website titled "We the People." The platform invited constituents to submit and vote on petitions. Initially, the Obama administration promised an official response to any petitions that accrued 5,000 signatures.
By January 2013, the Obama administration announced that petitions would have to accrue at least 100,000 signatures within 30 days of their publication in order to receive an official response, explaining that White House staffers could not keep up with the volume of petitions, The Atlantic reports.
Since Trump entered the Oval Office, none of the "We the People" petitions have been met with a government response. An official familiar with the Trump administration's communications team disclosed that the team considered ending the platform in June but that the decision was delayed after a staff shakeup, the Washington Examiner reports.
Former White House Communications Director Mike Dubke, who resigned from the Trump administration in May, stated that the website may be taken down due to cost concerns.
Nate Lubin, who headed up the Obama administration's Office of Digital Strategy from 2013 to 2015, defended the petition platform, asserting that it was cost-effective and a worthy public service.
"The point of the site was to give the American people a voice with a direct line to the White House and to encourage transparency," Lubin said. "The Trump administration doesn't seem to value those motivations ... To just maintain the status quo site would be quite cheap."
Since Trump assumed office, the two most popular initiatives on "We the People" have been a petition calling for the president to disclose his tax returns and a request for the government to label Antifa a terrorist group. The petition regarding Trump's taxes had 1.1 million signatures, while the Antifa-related petition accrued 360,000 signatures.
David Karpf, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, predicted that "We the People" would deteriorate into a platform of trolling petitions, regardless of whether or not the Trump administration shuts it down.
"In light of their ongoing palace intrigue and staff turmoil, I would be surprised if the White House invested resources and capacity to make this the responsive platform it was originally intended to be," Karpf said.
"If the government isn't going to fulfill its promise to respond to popular petitions, then petitions on this website are really only useful as brief media stunts," Karpf added.
While the Trump administration has not been responsive to public petitions, it has invited supporters to sign on to its own initiatives.
On Oct. 20, the president's fundraising group Trump Make America Great Again Committee launched a petition calling for NFL athletes who protest against police brutality by kneeling during the U.S. national anthem to be forced to stand, according to the New York Post.
Sources: The New York Times, The Atlantic, New York Post, Washington Examiner, The Washington Post / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: U.S. Government/Wikimedia Commons, Gage Skidmore/Flickr