We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – the preamble of the Constitution of the United States.

And now “we the people” have something else.

This week, on Inside PR, Joe Thornley, Martin Waxman, and I talk about We the People, a new crowdsourcing site from the U.S. government.

Yes, you read that correctly. A new crowdsourcing site from the U.S. government.

It allows you to exercise your first Amendment right to petition the government directly.  You share your petition on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, your blog, etc., and get other people to sign it.  When 5,000 signatures are acquired (has to be within 30 days), White House staff will review it, ensure it is sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.

I commend the President for supporting this cause.

When I ran for this office, I pledged to make government more open and accountable to its citizens. That’s what the new We the People feature on WhiteHouse.gov is all about – giving Americans a direct line to the White House on the issues and concerns that matter most to them.

We have a constitutional right to petition the government. Bringing that ability online will help increase the number of voices heard.

During Inside PR, Joe brings up a good point that the government can’t really have the public creating policy, which is completely understandable. Making it easier to petition our government using the web is very cool.

But I think this is bogus. This isn’t crowdsourcing, nor is it a direct line to the White House. Not if all we get is an official response when 5,000 or more signatures are collected on a cause we really believe in.

Perhaps, instead, they bring policy to us in the form of three different options…and let us vote. That is crowdsourcing in a way that doesn’t free up the government to the people, but also does more than get us an official response from the White House.

To be fair, they don’t use the word “crowdsourcing,” but it sure looks like sites we’ve become accustomed to using to submit our ideas. Sites such as  Starbucks and HP use for ideas and innovation from their customers.

And they do say, “We’ll make sure that the petition is sent to the appropriate policy makers in the Administration.”

But that feels very much like they’ll pat you on the head and send you along your way. Thanks for sending us a petition, here’s our response, and we’ll make sure policy makers see what you have to say.

What do you think?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich