If you're not watching John Oliver's HBO series Last Week Tonight, you should be. It's a truly fantastic show — wonderfully written, uproariously funny, and extremely socially aware. It's that last point that's helped it leave a broader impact, in fact. Oliver often uses his platform to raise awareness about important issues, and he does a great job of breaking them down in simple, attention-grabbing, understandable ways. So in that spirit, here are four petitions Oliver would want you to sign.
Some of his more bombastic, humorous calls to action over the last year have already seen their conclusions, sadly. You may remember his fierce advocacy for a team of geckos lost in space while on a sex research mission last year, a sad example of his influence hitting its limits. All the geckos were dead by the time they returned to Earth.
But Oliver's pushed for some incredibly important societal issues as well, on topics as far-ranging as public financing of sports stadiums, political oppression of and violence against transgender people, and harrowing forms of online harassment. Here are four petitions that help confront issues Oliver has talked about, because they're definitely worth your attention.
1. Pass "Leelah's Law" To Ban Conversion Therapy
Earlier this month, Oliver ran a lengthy, agonizing segment on transgender rights. Detailing many of the struggles transgender people face under a society that dehumanizes them and a legal and political system that largely ignores their needs, it was a powerful reminder of how much progress hasn't been made.
There's a Change.org petition up right now to call for the enactment of "Leelah's Law," named for 17-year-old transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, who killed herself last year after enduring faith-based "conversion therapy." Leelah's Law would ban conversion therapy, and President Obama has already publicly backed the idea.
2. Call Out Qatar's Use Of Forced Labor For 2022 FIFA World Cup Preparations
Oliver's devoted a fair amount of time to talking soccer on his show — specifically, the amount of corruption that runs through much of "the world's game."
Maybe nothing about this subject is more harrowing than what's going on in Qatar, which won the rights to the FIFA 2022 World Cup under highly dubious circumstances. Migrants have been effectively forced to work on the stadiums, with no way to leave the country, and hundreds of them have already died due to the oppressive, dangerous heat. This petition calls on FIFA's corporate sponsors to exert pressure on the issue, which seems like a good plan — after all, FIFA loves cash.
3. Call On Congress To Pass A Revenge Porn Law
The scourge of revenge porn is a really dismal reality on the Internet lately, with countless people's privacy invaded by the violating behavior of ex-partners. Sometimes, revenge porn can be video or images made with consent, then non-consensually uploaded after a relationship has ended. Or sometimes, as the author of this petition details, it can be created entirely without a person's knowledge.
In any event, it's a horrible practice — one that Oliver referenced in his recent segment on online harassment. And it's a prime example of Congress needing to address forms of cybercrime.
4. Raise Awareness Of For-Profit Prisons
One of the first, biggest examples of the deep-dig potential Oliver's show possessed was his July 2014 segment on the American prison system, in which he confronted a topic that often goes overlooked: prison privatization.
There's a robust litany of horror stories associated with these kind of places. For some prime examples, you can check out the 2014 "Kids For Cash" scandal, or how jailed immigrants have been treated in for-profit prisons in Texas.
Suffice to say, financially incentivizing incarceration can be a dangerous game. Here's a petition aimed at pressuring the privatized prison industry, courtesy of Color of Change.