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This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.
The modern way to collect signatures on a petition requires no paper or pen or standing on a street for hours. Change.org and other websites let people start or sign online petitions.
There are many different reasons why people start petitions at Change.org. The top causes range from animal protection to criminal justice to women's rights. Lauren Todd of New York started a petition a few months ago after she saw a picture of a girls shirt on Facebook. The shirt read: "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me." As Ms. Todd told CBS television, "It was outrageous enough to be posted on Facebook, but it was actually more outrageous than that, and I felt like I needed to do something about it."
Her petition urged shoppers to boycott J.C. Penney stores until they stopped selling shirts with what she called sexist messages. Five hours later, Shelby Knox started tweeting about the petition to her thousands of Twitter followers. Ms. Knox is the director of women's rights organizing for Change.org. Some of her followers also started tweeting about the shirt and signing the petition. Ms. Knox says, "From the time that Lauren started the petition on Change.org and J.C. Penney pulled the shirt, it was about ten hours, in which it got over two thousand signatures and at one point was generating over four hundred tweets a minute."
She said that with each new signature, an e-mail automatically went to J.C. Penney's public relations team. Another went to the company's chief. J.C. Penney, without comment, discontinued the shirts.
Clothing designer John Noone has worked with a number of large stores. He says he has always used words like "pretty" or "princess" when he creates shirts for girls. It's easier to sell a shirt that says "My little princess" than "My A student," he says.
But now, with the Internet, consumers who take offense can do more than just write an angry letter to the company. Another clothing seller, Forever 21, got in trouble not long after J.C. Penney. Forever 21 was selling a girl's shirt that read "Allergic to Algebra." It stopped selling them the day after the story spread.
Robin Sackin is a professor at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. She says children are influenced by their parents, not the words on a shirt. "So if my child says to me 'Mommy, I want to get that,' I've said, 'OK, you can have it, but just remember something -- I don't care if you're pretty, you're doing your homework.'"