Why is the White House temporarily shutting down its petition website?

The White House will temporarily shut down its petition website from midnight on Tuesday until a new one launches in a move which will save taxpayers $1.3m annually, according to US officials.

The platform will launch in late January to replace the existing “We The People” site set up by former US president Barack Obama in 2011 as part of his digital democracy initiative.

If a petition receives more than 100,000 signatures within a 30-day period, the White House is supposed to issue an official response to it.

Despite some delays, the Obama administration responded to more than 91 percent of the petitions that have met the threshold.

The focus of petitions has varied from the use of body-worn cameras to net neutrality.

In 2012, a petition demanded the recipes for the official White House beers including the honey brown ale and the home brew honey porter.

The honey brown ale features biscuit malt, while the home brew honey porter features chocolate malt.

A year later, the Obama administration signed a bill into law in response to a petition with over 114,000 signatories asking the US government to make it legal to unlock cell phones.

The White House said at the time:

The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones.

In 2015, when a petition garnered over 200,000 signatures in two days after the death of a transgender teenager, Obama called for an end to “conversion therapy” for gay and transgender teens.

Meanwhile, since Trump took office on January 20, the 17 petitions with more than 10,000 signatures have gone unanswered.

Popular petitions that have drawn the required number of signatures include a call for Trump to resign and another to put his assets in a blind trust.

The petition demanding Trump releases his tax returns has already garnered 1.1m signatures.

Meanwhile, more than 150,000 people have signed a petition asking that liberal donor George Soros be labeled a terrorist and have his assets seized.

A White House official told the Associated Press news agency that the administration would “respond to public concerns next year” once the new platform is up and running.

He added that all existing petitions would be reinstated:

All existing petitions and associated signatures have been preserved and will be available when the site is relaunched.

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