Meet The 28-Year-Old Who’s Taken On Ryanair, Paddy Power… Oh, And The Bank Of England Too

Did you sign the petition against that Paddy Power Oscar Pistorius bet? Have you added your name to the Anti Page 3 petition? Then you’ve been part of Brie Rogers Lowery’s mission to turn us all into ‘clicktivists' Portrait by Vic Lentaigne


by Rosie Kinchen |
Published on

We’ve always complained about hopeless politicians and evil corporations but traditionally the complaining was done blearily, in the pub, resigned to the fact that nobody was listening. That was before online petition sites turned us into a nation of ‘clicktivists’ – people who care passionately about issues and believe they can get results via the internet.

Sitting beside me is the woman who’s been central to this online revolution. Brie Rogers Lowery, 28, who has been heading up’s UK office since it launched in 2012. The site gets 2,500 petitions a week and they’re increasingly seeing results – around ten petitions ‘win’ by successfully persuading their target to change their minds or back down every week.

They’ll include petitions that even if you haven’t directly signed, you’ll have heard of their results. Feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez’s petition to get a woman on the £10 note, for example – resulting in the Bank of England finally caving in the face of public shaming and agreeing to put Jane Austen on the ones that’ll be issued in 2017. Equally last month, Bristol schoolgirl Fahma Mohamedsuccessfully petitoned Michael Gove for a face-to-face meeting at which he agreed to send out letters to the head teachers of every school in the UK asking them to be aware of pupils vulnerable to FGM.

‘There is an apathy with politics in Westminster but it doesn't mean that young people don't care about the issues that are happening around them’

It’s an astonishing phenomenon that Brie calls ‘a people-powered snowball’. It’s also the strongest evidence I’ve seen that politicians are wrong to think that anyone under 30 is a hopeless, neknominating non-voter. ‘There is an apathy with politics in Westminster, but it doesn’t mean that young people don’t care about the issues that are happening around them,’ Brie says.

In just two years the site has grown from 500,000 users to five million and Brie points out that the largest groups of users is under 35. ‘Sites like ours show politicians that they do need to be engaging people on those issues, rather than the political in-fighting and rhetoric,’ Brie says when we meet at’s new offices in Shoreditch. ‘And just because you’re not standing in the pouring rain gathering signatures on paper, it doesn’t make it any less credible or authentic.’

The website started its life as a US-based blogging platform, when one day a petition was added to a story and it went viral. The concept grew from there. In 2012, they launched a UK office and Brie, whose background is in digital campaigning, was put in charge. ‘It was just me and one other person,’ she laughs.

Now, less than two years later, in an average week the site gets around 2,500 petitions. ‘We have a very small team here who look at the petitions that have been uploaded, how many signatures they have got, what the personal narrative of the person who started it is like, what are they asking for? How achievable it is and what the media hook is.’

Brie says there is no magic number, but the key ingredient is a personal story. If they think it has mileage, will contact the petition starter and offer to help them. ‘We give support by promoting it to users we think might be interested in it,’ she says.

One of the best examples is the recent petition against Paddy Power, who reached new lows with an advertisement that featured a picture of Oscar Pistorius alongside the words, ‘Money off if he walks.’ The petition was launched by Jean Hachet – herself the survivor of domestic violence. When launching the petition, which went on to receive 125,000 signatures, Jean wrote. ‘I am a survivor of domestic violence and abuse and I know how many women around the world are suffering right now thinking that they are lucky to be alive when poor Reeva Steenkamp is dead.’ Her plea worked: the advertisement has now been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Petitions started by women tend to do better ‘because they are better at telling stories’

Petitions about women’s rights are amongst those that has had the most success with. Over half the users are women and, according to Brie, petitions started by women tend to do better. ‘They are much more likely to get to over a thousand signatures, which means women are sharing them more. We think this is because women are better at telling stories.’

This has in fact been true since the very beginning. The first ever UK petition was targeted at Ryanair and their ‘sexist’ calendar featuring staff members in their pants. The petition caught the attention of the press and soon it had 25,000 signatures and the petition starter, ‘Going head-to-head with Ryan O’Leary.’ Brie describes it as the ultimate case of going up against Goliath and, though the petition didn’t directly win, ‘they certainly had to change a lot of messaging around and so that was one of the first women’s rights campaigns in the UK.’

‘We want to show people that they can create change. It’s addictive and infectious and there is a huge sense of achievement’

And it’s a theme that’s continuing. Anti Page 3 campaigner Lucy Anne Holmes is using to petition for The Sun editor David Dinsmore to drop bare breasts from the newspaper. And this week much of Brie’s time has been spent promoting the petition to get the Home Office to repeal the decision to deport Mauritian student Yashiri Bageerathi, who was seeking asylum after fleeing an abusive relative – a petition that’s now sadly failed. ‘When you've put as much time, energy and passion into a campaign like this that's got such a powerful story at its heart, disappointment is a natural reaction,’ Brie says of the Government’s decision. ‘Though it looks as though the students and teachers at Oasis Hadley 6th Form aren't going to give up on their friend yet. They have showed incredible strength and doggedness to make Yashika's case such a huge story – something that would have been almost impossible ten years ago.’

She’s got a point: at least we’ve all spent the last week talking about the 19-year-old British student – mobilised pretty much entirely by her classmates. ‘I think it’s fantastic to see this new generation of feminist campaigns,’ says Brie. ‘And the internet has provided a platform for that. We want to show people that they can create change. It’s addictive and infectious and there is a huge sense of achievement.’

Follow Rosie on Twitter @rosiekinchen

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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