With the U.S. presidential election looming around the corner, the fateful bombardment of deceptive, misleading political ad campaigns has returned once more. Again it is time for the nation’s aspiring leaders to attack and slander one another with distorted, fictional claims about themselves and their opponents. Such claims may resemble something along the lines of “As your candidate for president, I will eliminate all taxes and bring America into a new age of enlightenment,” or “I promise to withdraw military presence that we have stationed in more than 130 countries around the world.” Or even, “My opponent is a sadist and strangles kittens for his own pleasure.” Sometimes it gets difficult to really know the authenticity of their statements.
With the ocean of misinformation fed to the public through television screens, a method of filtering out the lies and getting the truth is imperative. With the new Super PAC App, you can filter infor- mation through your iPhone. The app allows users to listen and identify political advertisements (much like Shazam does with music), referencing the audio waves with a database of factual claims about the ads from objective, nonpartisan, third-party sources.
Originating from a class project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the app was conceived when co-founders Dan Siegel and Jennifer Hollet met in a course at the school’s renowned Media Lab. With Siegel’s interest in both politics and campaign spending combined with Hollet’s background in broadcast journalism, the fusion of their abilities produced Super PAC. Using the latest audio fin- gerprinting technology, they developed a user-friendly method of combating political propaganda, which is ideal for those who don’t have time in their busy sched- ules to research every claim that they hear in the media.
In an interview with CNN, Siegel elabo- rated on the motives for developing such a tool. “Some of these ads are complete distortions of the truth and you can quickly discover that if you have some trusted news source telling you so,” Siegel said. “And some of the ads are completely accurate and are telling you really valuable information that can help make you a more informed voter. And you need to know that, too.”
A super PAC is a political action committee, which can raise and spend an un- limited amount of funds on political races. Super PACs have emerged in the presiden- tial race because of two federal court rulings back in 2010. Since then, more than $300 million has been given to approximately 780 Super PACs, contributing to the metamorphosis of our country into a plutocracy, or a nation ruled by the rich. Because of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, super PACs can exist. With this limitless financial capacity for unions, individuals and businesses to dedicate money to their campaign of choice, this year’s presidential election is set to flood the airwaves with commercials, both factual and inaccurate.
“That means that sometime in mid-August or late August, there’s going to be, particularly in swing states, no more (nonpolitical) commercials,” Siegel continued. “And I suspect that’s going to feel very weird to the average person.”
In order to combat the manufacturing of consent by political parties and the groups that fund them, the Super PAC App feeds users valid information about everything related to the commercial. Such information may include the name of the organization, its goals, its affiliation to the official campaign, how much money they’ve raised, and how much they’ve spent. On another screen, the application examines and scrutinizes individual claims made in the ad, giving the user an enhanced sense of the reality behind what their TV tells them to believe everyday.
San Diego State students Brianna Corn and Kayla Delucia offered their thoughts on the app and its possible repercussions on Ameri- can society. “It will be eye-opening for a lot of people when they find out that the things they hear and see are often lies,” Corn said. “It’s a really good idea for people to be able to see what’s actually going on, rather than to just blindly trust the commercial.”
In addition Delucia said, “I think that it would be a really helpful tool, as most people just go off of what they hear from friends or family. Having something that could figure everything out for them cuts out a lot of the effort, solving one of the main problems today … that people are just too lazy.”
It seems inarguable a tool promoting truth and awareness in politics is a great invention. The question is whether Super PAC App will ac- tually have an effect on the American masses.