Two petitions on the White House’s website, both of them asking President Donald Trump to save the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), are not registering signatures. The mysterious malfunction was first reported by the Independent.
Both petitions were launched on January 21, several days after the news broke that the Trump team was considering a budget plan that would entirely eliminate the two federal agencies, as well as privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. One petition shows only 44 signatures, despite hundreds of people having tweeted that they signed it. Many have noticed the discrepancy, with one tweeter claiming that the petition had nearly 100,000 signatures yesterday; another says the number was originally in the tens of thousands. The other petition shows 734 signatures, a small climb from the 724 listed earlier today, but does not seem to be accurately counting those who’ve signed based on the sharing rate suggested by social media. It also appears to have been set up only after a previous petition vanished.
As a test, we signed both currently active petitions, verified our email address, and received confirmation that our signatures had been counted, but the number did not increase on either one. What’s more, the confirmation page we were taken to in both cases offered a “short URL” for sharing, in order to “help the petition reach its goal.” The short URL links lead to a White House 404 error page.
It’s unclear if other We the People petitions are experiencing the same issue, or if it’s limited solely to the NEA/NEH requests. Someone we spoke with reported being unable to sign a petition that demands President Trump “immediately” release his full tax returns, but we were able to sign it and watch the number increase to reflect our inclusion. As of this writing, that petition has 338,697 signatures.
The strange case of the NEA/NEH petitions comes amid blatant attempts by Trump to dictate the narrative of his presidency, in everything from press briefings to social media. On January 21, in his first meeting with reporters, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lied about the size of the crowd at inauguration, and Trump has since ordered the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of the Agriculture and the Interior “to cease communicating with the public through news releases, official social media accounts and correspondence,” the Washington Post reported. Others noted that, on the first day of Trump’s presidency, pages devoted to climate change, LGBTQ rights, and other issues were removed from the White House’s website, as was the option to view the entire site in Spanish.
We called and emailed the White House about the petition malfunctions but have not yet received a response.