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Surprising Science

New Election Ad App Tells You Who is Behind the Message

Ever wonder who is behind the political ad playing on the TV or radio? The Ad Hawk app for smart phones was developed to tell you exactly that.

What’s the Latest Development?

As November looms closer and closer, TV and radio airwaves are filling up with political ads for and against candidates at national and local levels. And unless the message ends with something like ‘I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this message,’ it can be hard to figure out who is behind the advertisement. “Seizing on the rise of the smartphone, the non-profit group Sunlight Foundation, which works to increase government openness, has built an app called Ad Hawk that uses a phone’s microphone to listen to campaign ads and identify them.” The app can tell you where the ad is airing, what group sponsors it, and any relevant information about that group.   

What’s the Big Idea?

Using the technology normally used to identify popular songs, sponsors of political ads can be identified in just seconds. Any super PAC can sponsor political messages to promote their personal agenda and the Ad Hawk app lets consumers get an unbiased view of who is delivering that message. While a test of the verity of an ad’s message isn’t part of the app, knowing the track record of who is behind the ad can be just as illuminating.

Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran /


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