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Change.org Taps Wikipedia Parent Lawyer as New Legal Chief (2)

Nov. 30, 2021, 4:34 PMUpdated: Nov. 30, 2021, 8:40 PM

Petition platform Change.org has tapped former Wikipedia parent company lawyer Tony Sebro as its new general counsel.

Sebro will be responsible for legal, trust and safety, as well as public and platform policies, according to a Tuesday statement.

“The internet is at its best when people use it to organize scalable, collective action for the common good,” Sebro said in an email. “Importantly, Change.org has a unique vantage point as it relates to the world’s greatest policy and advocacy issues today. We sit at the intersection of technology and civil society in a way that positions us on the front lines of social impact. I find this to be incredibly exciting, fulfilling and powerful work.”

Change.org petitions frequently gain millions of digital signatures, often on topics of social justice and social change. Users petitioned for the commute of Julius Jones’ death sentence in Oklahoma earlier this month, and Jones was granted clemency hours before his scheduled execution.

But there are other ways to measure an online petition’s effect, according to Sebro.

“While the real-world outcome of a victory is a key marker of success, raising awareness and educating people on a variety of issues, lived experiences and ways people want to change the world is most certainly another important marker of success,” Sebro said.

With hundreds of millions of users, Sebro said its common for people to have “competing perspectives and interests.” Managing and minimizing the risks that come with those competing perspectives, like online harassment and misinformation, will also be crucial, Sebro told Bloomberg Law.

“It is critically important that we create and maintain the type of civic infrastructure that is safe and protected by policies that help to manage and minimize a variety of risks,” Sebro said.

The San Francisco-based organization in September became fully nonprofit-owned under the Change.org Foundation following investments from people like Bill Gates, Ray Dalio, Richard Branson, and Arianna Huffington.

Sebro was most recently deputy general counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit that supports online, user-edited Wikipedia. Before that, he was a member of PCT Law Group and program director at IBM Corp. He began his career with Kenyon & Kenyon LLP.

“It is vital that online platforms are consistently assessing and evolving their policies and practices,” Change.org CEO Nick Allardice said in the statement. “We’re thrilled to have Tony on board to lead the charge on this.”

(Adds comments from Sebro in seventh and eighth paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at rchen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com;
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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