‘Slacktivism’ groups claim credit for Apple supplier audits over a month after Apple originally announced its plans

“Two organizations that host online petition drives are claiming credit for Apple’s partnership with the Fair Labor Association to monitor worker conditions in overseas suppliers’ factories, over a month after the company originally announced its plans,” Daniel Eran Dilger reports for AppleInsider.

“The two websites, Change.org and SumOfUs.org, issued press releases this morning suggesting that petitions they hosted were a motivating force behind Apple’s supplier investigation, despite the fact that both publicity efforts occurred after Apple outlined its latest efforts in policing its supplier accountability policy,” Dilger reports. “Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, the executive director of SumOfUs.org, stated in a press release that additional details Apple had just released about its partnership with the FLA ‘came just a few days after consumer advocacy groups,’ including her own and Change.org, collectively ‘delivered over a quarter of a million petition signatures calling on Apple to address abysmal working conditions in its supply chain in time to produce an ethical iPhone 5.'”

Dilger reports, “Participants signing the petitions didn’t actually do anything apart from supplying one of the two websites with their name and contact information, a growing movement known as ‘slacktivism,’ which is defined as participating in ‘feel-good’ measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Fair Labor Association begins inspections of Foxconn at Apple’s request – February 13, 2012
Apple joins Fair Labor Association – January 13, 2012


  1. So, Change.org and SumOfUs.org – I will definitely avoid dealing with them in future.

    If they’re willing to lie and deceive in cases like this, what do you think they’ll do with donations? How much integrity do you think their other pronouncements have?

    “Slackivism” is a great label for this kind of thing – “activism theater” is another. (Plenty of activism theater went on with the delivery of those petitions to Apple stores.)

  2. Actually, most of media, including Wired, ZDNet participate in this tabloidish campaign, started by NYT article.

    They all now run articles how Apple “answered to heat”, while FLA audits were planned long before NYT’s article. Now only concrete schedule was signed.

  3. These online petitions are a joke. No one takes them seriously. It’s not like there is some focused, motivated group behind the petition — it’s just some folks who had a few minutes to kill, so they clicked a link and autofilled their info.

  4. This issue has brought out the worst in liberal cause organizations. This is where ‘liberal loons’ get a well deserved bad reputation. The result is damage to their reputation regarding GOOD causes.

    Change.org has had some excellent and successful causes for years. Then they go all ga-ga over an issue they NEVER researched that does NOT deserve their attention. Major OOPS moment. 😳

    IOW: Of course folks! There are nut jobs at both of the extremist ends of the 1 dimensional political spectrum. Dumbass tards have freedom of speech too.

  5. One American congressman (can’t remember which) said it quite well. When he was asked how to the lawmakers take petitions from their constituents when considering how to vote, he said the following. Essentially, the amount of attention a politician will devote to an issue raised by the constituents will be directly proportional to the amount of effort the constituent(s) put into bringing the issue to his attention. This makes online petitions little more than a method to get a general idea what some self-selected statistical sample thinks about certain issue. They certainly don’t tell how passionate they are about it (passionate enough to click ‘Submit!’ on a webpage doesn’t say anything). Next level of effort is signing and mailing pre-printed cards. The step above that is actually writing a personal, one-off letter (handwritten is better than typed) and sending it in, and so on. The most attention will be received when a person is passionate enough about their cause to travel to Washington, D.C., (or Albany, NY, or Sacramento, CA… you get the idea), schedule an appointment and meet with their elected representative face-to-face.

    Online petitions are of extremely limited value, and web operators that provide such service know this very well, I’m sure. Obviously, nobody will reject positive publicity, so there’s no reason why they should.

  6. Regarding online petitions:
    Choose them well.

    Every single petition I have signed online over these past many years has resulting in POSITIVE CHANGE. They work. I get verification of receipt of these petitions from my elected officials. I get letters back from them in response. They change their minds.

    An wonderful example is the Stop SOPA/PIPA cause. It stopped both of these abusive Corporate Oligarchy bills dead in their tracks. My participation worked, as made evident by the most recent letter I received from one of my Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand, who remains one of the few Senators still sponsoring the SOPA/PIPA bills. Everyone efforts got even HER to back down. These horror bills are back in committee, which means they aren’t dead. But they’re going to think twice before perpetrating them again in public.

    I choose the petitions I sign very carefully and make certain the causes they support are critical, versus frivolous or ignorant. Obviously Change.org and SumOfUs.org fell into the deep end regarding Apple and drowned their reputations. I didn’t sign their ignorant bullshit and I won’t be bothering with either of them in the future.

  7. Up until recently, Sumofus.org were claiming a little girl in China was being poisoned by N-Hexane, while cleaning iPhone screens.

    They lost all credibility with me when they claimed that, as it hasn’t been used at Wintek since 2009, after pressure from Apple.

    They have since changed the website to read:
    “She spends those hours inhaling isopropanol, a toxin used to clean iPhone glass.”

    Isopropanol is just an alcohol and there have been zero reports of poisonings or illness from using it.

    You would have to drink it to get poisoned.

    1. And that’s the real shame of it – there are actually real people dealing with real things that are extremely problematic and wrong, but instead of focusing on that, these “activism theater” groups prefer to cling to their made-up sob stories instead.

      These type of groups not only don’t really care about the people they claim to speak for, but they actually have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo – after all, if working conditions actually *do* improve, suddenly they’ve lost their political platform.

      I’m all for groups who actually make a real effort to get their facts straight, and who genuinely care about solving these kinds of problems. But I have zero time or tolerance for “activism theater” and the groups who cynically use this stuff solely for their own ends.

  8. Call me cynical, but what impact will misinformed, misguided bleeding heart liberals have on a country that does not care about human rights? Further, Apple us being singled out as if the company directly employs the assembly workers, which it does not. The employer is Foxconn, not Apple, and Foxconn has many customers, of which Apple is but one.

    Apple has been taking initiative to improve worker conditions well ahead of any initiative claimed by liberal pressure groups, but to state that would not sell any newspapers for the ultra liberal New York Times. So the story was distorted to suit their purposes.

    Further, perhaps we should explore who funds these groups accusing Apple. Could it be US labor unions, which have waged an ongoing shame campaign against Apple? Or Apple competitors? Or hedge funds trying to beat down Apple stock? This never gets explored.

    Perhaps we should point the gun at ourselves. We won’t pay much for a T-shirt sold at Walmart (or my favorite, Swillmart), so to get Walmart’s business, the T-shirt maker moves the manufacturing from America to Bangladesh, where the shirts are made by children in sweatshops. We won’t pay much for a computing device, so the assembly gets moved to China. You get what you pay for. And we are to blame, not Apple.

    The reason liberals hate Apple is because limousine liberals hate prosperity and success. This is ironic, given that many of these same liberals grew up in wealthy families. We can feeling good railing against China even knowing full well that China is a Communist dictatorship, and in the end, the government and its culture care little for human rights. It is only with the tremendous financial clout of a company like Apple (and a company that has a conscience and the will to apply it) that there will be change for the betterment of Chinese workers.

    But of course, this will never be reported. Instead, the story will be told by the liberal media that courageous liberal pressure groups carried the day, not greedy Apple.

    And you wonder why America is rapidly heading in the direction of Greece. I can answer that: liberalism.

  9. It’s fair to say that some of the petitions on Change.org aren’t well-researched. I also think that blaming only Apple for working conditions in China is unfair. Then again, they are the most powerful company dealing with China, so pressuring them is most likely to improve conditions. I’m guessing that those who want to see conditions improve for mistreated Chinese workers view that as morally much more important than being fair to Apple – and I don’t find that shocking. Apple can take care of itself – those workers cannot.

    However, apparently most here at MDN don’t know how Change.org works (speaking of poorly informed and lack of research). Random people can create their OWN petitions using Change.org. Do you know if that is what happened here?

    Finally, many of their petitions have completely turned around some really bad situations, so saying that their tactics are (always) ineffective shows that you don’t know what’s going on. Recently, an undocumented immigrant needed an organ transplant. He had a donor (family member), coverage for the surgery, and a philanthropist willing to pay all the expenses of the recovery process. The hospital was refusing to perform the operation. The outrage and negative publicity of the petition made them change their mind. That man will now live instead of dying. That’s about as opposite of ineffective as you can get. This man’s life will be saved from certain death.

    Like many things in life, these online petitions include both good and bad. Ignorantly and thoughtlessly believing that something is all-bad or all-good is the sign of a person who is either lazily ignorant, at best, or outright dishonest, at worst. Don’t be that guy.

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