Cambridge firms develop software to check campaign facts

BY ARAM BOGHOSIAN

CAMBRIDGE — Another political ad flashes on the television, with another attack on another politician, backed by statistics that may not be true or soundbites that may be taken out of context.

What is a viewer to do?

Two Cambridge enterprises have answered the call, developing free digital tools to help voters navigate the cacophonous flood of information this presidential campaign and separate facts from falsehoods.

The Super PAC App, created by a digital production company called Glassy Media, would allow truth-seeking viewers to quickly access information about the ad by holding their smartphones up to the television. Using audio fingerprinting technology, the mobile app recognizes the ad, identifies the group that paid for it, and allows the user to explore the claims of that ad.

Another Cambridge entity, Nimblebot.com, will launch a web platform Thursday that will display presidential campaign ads with tags that mark each claim as “true,” “false,” or “ambiguous” and provide links to the research behind those assessments.

Their motivation, the developers say, is neither profit nor partisanship, but a desire for transparency. They see this as especially relevant in an election season expected to be inundated with campaign ads sponsored by super PACs: political committees unaffiliated with any candidate that are allowed to raise unlimited funds from virtually any source and spend this money to influence elections.

“Your TV is going to be screaming political ads at you, especially if you live in a swing state,” said Dan Siegel, 28, who co-created Super PAC App, which is scheduled to be downloadable for free in time for the Republican National Convention on Aug. 27. “To help users or voters to learn a little bit more about the information that is being thrown at them: We think that’s incredibly important.”

Nimblebot.com, which normally designs interactive events and Web applications for such clients as Samsung and Showtime network, has taken a time-out from its profit-making ventures to develop Reactvid.com.

“We are extremely concerned about the way that people are being communicated with as the campaign approaches,” said Nadeem Mazen, 28, chief executive of Nimblebot.com. “It seems like the super PACs have a huge amount of say and a huge amount of sway. And it’s time for all of us to do something about it.”

Siegel, whose project is funded by a Knight Foundation grant, said he and his cofounder, Jennifer Hollett, got the idea for Super PAC App while they were graduate students taking a class at the MIT Media Lab on how people use a “second screen” — smartphones, tablets or laptops — while they watch television.

Read more at BostonGlobe.com

 

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