New App Ready To Challenge Super PAC Ads

All right, Maddow. Here’s to you, Hannity. Stop any complaining about political ads unjustly vilifying your favored presidential candidate. Truth can set you free. There’s an app for that.

How about a commitment to use it yourselves and encourage your viewers to join? If the results don’t buttress your arguments, just admit it. Embrace fact-checking. Do the impossible for certain shows at MSNBC and Fox News. 

Ok, so MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow isn’t going to use the Super PAC App to concede President Obama and his outside backers are springing any falsehoods in their ads. There won’t be any admissions of unfair charges about Gov. Mitt Romney closing a factory and ruining a state.

And Sean Hannity at Fox News won’t be turning to the app to concede the Romney campaign or sympathetic super PACs are off-base with accusations President Obama wants to adopt economic policies tried by the USSR.

But viewers who don’t take their word as gospel have a new option to try and sift through the muck in the ad barrage coming this fall. Glassy Media, a digital production house with roots in the MIT Media Lab, has launched a Super PAC App for iPhones designed to discover the elusive truth in the spots in the presidential race.

The genesis was at least partly sparked by all these super PACs springing up and going on the attack. Are these groups making any valid points or just dialing up some deceit? And what about the spots paid for by the candidates themselves?

The free app dovetails with the second-screen movement spreading throughout TV programming and advertising, where users can point a tablet or smartphone at the screen and instantly access more information -- an audio code allows for recognition of the ad -- with their fingertips. The Super PAC App developers appear to have done a thorough job looking to serve the public.

As a spot from Priorities USA or American Crossroads or another super PAC airs, a viewer can point at the screen to get “objective, third-party information" on the validity of the spot, while also having a chance to rate it and gain insight into the groups and spending behind it.

Clearly, a major challenge will be convincing users that the app is truly unbiased and trustworthy, but the promise is remarkable. There’s no need for a viewer to do any research. It's done for them. And so many of them are watching TV with a device in hand anyway.

A coveted service that is easy to access? No need to go through a Procter & Gamble training program to figure out there’s potential.

But Glassy Media is an operation based in Cambridge, Mass. -- that island where Republicans just know covens are meeting right now to launch a Reoccupy Wall Street movement. Ah, Glassy would say to assert impartiality, check out our advisors, which include  the former GOP Secretary of State in Kentucky and employee of Democrat Howard Dean.

Non-partisan PolitiFact and FactCheck.org have been signed to evaluate claims made in the ads. With help from journalists and others, Glassy Media will continue to assemble a database of ads, so its system can recognize them when they air.  

Dan Siegel, one of the app’s creators, declined to tell CNN whether ads have been mostly “factual” so far, but said Glassy is "not trying to say super PACs are good or bad." But they and the candidates are spending liberally (or with conservative values) and "therefore there's a need for users to be able to play through the noise a little bit."

Don’t count on them winning that game by watching too much unbalanced cable news.

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