Avaaz and our Commitment to Accuracy

Much like a newspaper or a media organization creates stories, Avaaz creates and publishes hundreds of campaigns every year, and sends out thousands of emails, press releases and statements about these campaigns. Also like journalists, we often do these on very short timescales responding to urgent events.

We strive for accuracy, and 99.9% of the time we succeed. But it’s impossible to get it right every time, and when we get it wrong, we’re committed to publishing corrections to our public communications on this page, and linking to this page from the front page of our website. In addition, if any campaign has been conducted on the basis of a serious inaccuracy, we are committed to informing the people who have joined the campaign and offering them a chance to withdraw their support.

This page can be found at any time by the link from the front page of our website.

Corrections for 2016:
  • November 13: In an email to Avaaz members in the United States, we wrote that if states with a combined 270+ electoral college votes supported the National Popular Vote Bill before the December 19 electoral college meeting, it would stop Donald Trump becoming the next president. In fact the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact contains an internal deadline of July 20 of the year of a Presidential election, and cannot affect the outcome of the 2016 election.

    Upon discovering this error, we closed the campaign, updating the pages with a correction and emailing all signers of the petition with a correction and apology. Signers were offered a chance to remove their signature, but we will continue to use the petition to campaign for the National Popular Vote bill as an important democratic reform.

  • March 2: Avaaz tested a fundraising campaign with a very small percentage of our community (0.7%) that told the story of an inspiring initiative called The Ocean Cleanup, which could help remove as much as half the plastic in the Great Pacific garbage patch in less than ten years. This was done while in conversation with staff at The Ocean Cleanup, with whom Avaaz had had many communications.

    In our discussions, their marketing and communications advisor wrote us over Skype: “It's great we are back on the adar [radar] with Avaaz. I can confirm we are happy to be netiowned [mentioned] as an organisation with Boyan as our founder and CEO. However, I have to ask you if we can see the draft mail for a fact and style check first. I know it is inconvenient because of time pressure...”

    The Avaaz team immediately responded by sending the draft email back, and received a response from our contact saying he saw no problems with it, but that others on The Ocean Cleanup team should give the final word.

    While waiting for that further feedback on the draft, we sent out a small test email to 0.7% of our membership, to test their support for the idea. We did let The Ocean Cleanup team know we were doing this, but it was a mistake to do it -- we should have waited for full approval from our partner before sending anything out. That test was sent on 25 February, 2016, and raised $18,682.98, donated by 687 Avaaz members. All $18,682.98 will of course be given directly to The Ocean Cleanup.

    We apologize to The Ocean Cleanup team for our mistake and hope the funds raised help them fulfill the dream of a plastic-free ocean.

  • January 30th. In several emails sent to members in Germany, France, Belgium and other EU countries calling for a trans-boundary environmental impact assessment for all Belgian nuclear reactors, we stated that one of the reactors had recently leaked "white gas", or "suspicious gases”. The media actually reported "thick white steam" from the plant and that "a water leak on a generator" forced the shutdown of the reactor. We regret any possible confusion on the nature of the substances leaked.


Corrections for 2015:
  • February 12th. In an email to members to secure compensation for the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster, we stated that Benetton “earned profits of €139 million the year of the collapse”. Benetton’s holding company, Edizione, 100% controlled by the Benetton family, earned a net profit of €139 million in 2013. However the Benetton Group made a net loss of €199m that year.


Corrections for 2014:
  • September 8th. In two of our emails to announce the People’s Climate March around the world we included a reference to the mini-ice age known as the Younger Dryas. In one email we wrote “6 months for the planet to unleash an army of apartment-building-size ice blocks” and in another “6 months for the planet to unleash a giant wall of ice”. Although the Younger Dryas cooling did happen rapidly over a period of about 6 months, the expansion of the glaciers and movement of the ice took a much longer period. More information on Younger Dryas mini ice-age can be found in this article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427344.800-mini-ice-age-took-hold-of-europe-in-months.html


  • July 13th: Statement from Center for Food Safety -- "Center for Food Safety (CFS) recently submitted a proposal to Avaaz for a fundraising campaign to create a state of the art non-profit seed exchange and to support a strong seed saving movement that promotes farmers' rights and protects local seed diversity. A miscommunication of CFS's international staff with Dr. Vandana Shiva led to the mistaken inclusion of Dr. Shiva in the Avaaz fundraising initiative. CFS regrets and apologizes for the misunderstanding and takes full responsibility for the error of Dr. Shiva's name appearing on the fundraising initiative. We want to be clear that Avaaz acted in good faith throughout and we deeply appreciate the Avaaz community's support and commitment to this critical issue.

    For over two decades CFS has worked very closely with Dr. Shiva and Navdanya, the organization she founded, and both organizations share the common goal of defending and protecting local seeds, seed diversity, and the right of farmers to save and exchange seeds.  We look forward to future work with Navdanya and other movements in mutually agreed upon activities that will build a better seed future."


Corrections for 2013:
  • August 13th: In a climate change fundraising email to members we described climate scientist Dr. Julienne Stroeve as “not believing her eyes” when she saw the recent state of the Arctic ice melt. This characterization of her reaction was inaccurate. It was an interpretation of her reaction we made based on press reports of her trip but it was not supported by her statements. Dr. Stroeve has spent decades measuring the ice, and while she was alarmed, it was not correct to say she felt disbelief. We regret the error and corrected it as soon as it was brought to our attention.


  • July 25th: In an email to Italian members, we wrote that Medoilgas was “refusing to do an environmental impact assessment” prior to drilling for oil off the coast of Italy. In fact, Medoilgas did apply for an initial Environmental Impact Assessment but is refusing to apply for and obtain an Integrated Environmental Authorisation which is being requested by the Italian government. In addition, our email stated that after a recent change in the law, “companies can drill for oil near the coast without even the obligation of the normal controls necessary to protect the environment.” That is incorrect. While the new law lifted a moratorium on offshore drilling for certain projects, those who do drill are required to comply with the “normal” procedures that were in place before the moratorium. There are many, however, who believe these procedures are insufficient to protect the environment.


  • March 20th: In an email to members we wrote: "a 15-year-old rape survivor has been sentenced to be whipped 100 times in public! [....] The girl's stepfather is accused of raping her for years and murdering the baby she bore. Now the court says she must be flogged for “sex outside marriage!" This is correct; however, we're concerned that the wording may have led some to believe that her flogging was a punishment for being raped by her stepfather, when in fact her sentence was for extra-marital sex with another man who has not been named. Sources suggest that the girl was abused by many men on the island where she lived, and it's not clear that the "crime" for which was sentenced was consensual sex with or abuse at the hands of another man. We spotted this problem within 24 hours and immediately amended the website text of the petition page to read: "The girl's stepfather is accused of raping her for years and murdering the baby she bore. Now the court says she must be flogged for “sex outside marriage” with a man who has not even been named."

Corrections for 2012:
  • November 29th: In a map posted to Avaaz Daily Briefing and social media shortly after the UN general assembly vote on recognising Palestine as a non-member observer state, New Zealand was incorrectly marked as abstaining in the vote. In fact, New Zealand voted in favour of Palestinian statehood. In addition, Western Sahara was incorrectly shown as a part of Morocco, instead of as a non-self-governing territory. Both of these errors were quickly corrected on the Daily Briefing site and a notice of correction was made on the page.


  • September 12th: In an email about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Avaaz said: “US Senator, Elizabeth Warren in a recent speech said: “Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters, because we don't run this country for corporations, we run it for people." Let’s reach one million to stop the corporate takeover of our governments.” While Elizabeth Warren did say this, she is in fact a Candidate for the Senate, not a Senator.


  • Aug 15th: Avaaz sent a campaign email to UK members titled “UK: Save our school fields!”. The email had a factual error in its opening line. The email to members stated: ”Michael Gove is selling off our school sports fields to rich property developers at a staggering rate — leaving a generation of British kids with nowhere to play”. The use of the word "staggering" was not accurate to describe the current sell-off rate, but given the relaxing of regulations governing the minimum field space required for schools this line should have read: "Changes to regulations could result in a staggering rate of school field sales to rich developers and the elimination of playing fields for a generation of children."


  • July 18th: A campaign on gay rights in Poland launched on the new Avaaz petition site by a Polish politician included 2 factual errors. First was a claim that gay couples were denied visitation rights in hospitals. In fact partners are allowed to visit sick loved ones. However, they are not granted the same access rights as heterosexual couples and are forbidden from making critical decisions regarding the medical treatment of partners. The second error was a claim that gay couples could not buy houses together. Homosexual couples can jointly own properties, but the rights of partners are not respected in the execution of wills and estates -- if one partner dies and the property is left to the other, their claim of ownership can be challenged. This has been ruled as a violation of human rights by the European Court of Human Rights. The petition text itself was completely accurate, but unfortunately these two errors were not spotted before the campaign was emailed out to Avaaz members in Poland.


  • May 23rd: Avaaz sent a campaign email to UK members titled “UK’s cruelest cut”. The email stated that each year tens of thousands of girls in the UK were forced into female genital mutilation, when in fact the number is unknown. What is known according to Forward, the leading NGO in this area, is that 98,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of being forced into this procedure. Our petition itself was factually correct, but based on the inaccuracy in the email we polled petition signers and asked whether they would like to withdraw their signature. 3% of respondents asked to have their signature removed, which we did before the petition was delivered.


  • May 1st: In an email about a ‘denial of service’ attack on the Avaaz website to our community, we said “one expert has told us that the attack could likely only come from a government or a private corporation”. In our post-mortem of the campaign, we discovered that this expert had only not disagreed with that view when it was offered by members of our tech team as opposed to proposing it himself.


  • February 28th: February 28th: In a press interview with BBC radio on the day the Syrian evacuation attempt was publicized, our Executive Director stated that no Free Syrian Army were involved in the evacuation attempt. This was false. The FSA played a significant role in the evacuation, which Avaaz was initially unaware of because of the chaos of the operation, the difficulty of communications with the field, and our policy of minimizing our contact with armed groups in Syria. The FSA's role was not mentioned in written press statements on February 28th and 29th regarding the evacuation. We apologize to the FSA for this honest mistake. In relation to this correction and the one below, a full statement on Avaaz's role in the journalists evacuation in Syria can be found here.


  • February 28th: In a press release, we claimed that Avaaz had ‘coordinated’ an evacuation attempt by Syrian activists of 4 journalists and several wounded trapped in Baba Amr. In fact, we had supported and assisted some of the activists involved, relaying messages and information among them and between the journalists and their employers and families. While we had played a role in the decision-making and planning leading up to the evacuation, the evacuation itself was chaotic, and it is not accurate to claim that we coordinated it. This error was caught within 2 hours of the statement being released and before any press interviews were conducted, when we changed our statements to say that we "helped" or "supported" the activists involved.


  • January 5th: In a ‘test’ email opened by 3500 Canadian Avaaz subscribers, we claimed that Prime Minister Harper was supporting a proposal by a private firm to start charging for entry to Jasper National Park. In fact, the charge would be levied only on those entering a specific private attraction at the park, and we had no clear evidence of where the Prime Minister stood on the matter, just educated guesses by insiders. We corrected the errors immediately upon discovery and informed the people who had received the incorrect email.