AdHawk: who's behind that political ad?

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez,

The Sunlight Foundation recently launched a free mobile app to help voters better know who is buying political ads this election year. Ad Hawk available for iPhone and Android, listens to campaign, super PAC and issue ads on the TV or radio and then lists information about who placed the ads, their campaign finance profile and other information.

Ad Hawk is simple to use: just listen, identify and learn. When you see a political ad on TV or hear one on the radio, open the app to have Ad Hawk start listening to the ad. In less than 30 seconds, Ad Hawk will create an audio fingerprint using open-source technology and start searching our database of thousands of ads for a match. We identify new ads by monitoring media reports and the YouTube channels of political groups and campaigns. When Ad Hawk finds a match, users will get information on their phone about how much money the ad's sponsor received or spent, where the ad is on the air and media reports about the candidate or political group.

Ad Hawk: Identify Political Ads As They Air



  1. 2 things.. How do you know they aren’t selling guaranteed views back to the ad people?
    Doesn’t work when you mute the commercials.

  2. Well, transparency isn’t something our politicians are about to vote for unless someone forces them too and campaign finance is a joke. Ad Hawk, has a place amongst those that care whom is pulling the strings. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not seem to care and never will until they have no other choice.

  3. Cute hack, though I’d want this spoken or onscreen with the ad.

    Though frankly, I think the best thing about it is the pun on “ad hoc”.

  4. The Sunlight Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization and is absolutely not selling views back to the original folks running the ads. Ad Hawk is intended for Americans to learn more about the groups behind the political ads attempting to influence their votes.

    As for onscreen or spoken disclosures within the ad, we have consistently advocated for that as a legislative solution and we haven’t seen action (yet). Ad Hawk is our attempt at a technical workaround for this issue. Part of the SUPERPAC Act that was drafted by the Sunlight Foundation includes a provision to “Require disclaimers (stand-by-your-ad statements) and identification of top funders in the ad.” You can read more about the policy goals of the organization here:

    Disclaimer: I work for the Sunlight Foundation and am the “Nicko” mentioned in Cory’s post.

  5. This is a great idea. Since W.’s administration I’ve been wondering how to use the ‘Net to provide accuracy information to US voters in real time during political communications. During public debate and/or talk shows, for example, if you lie and make up a statistic in your favor here you still “win” more than you lose, even if people who know manage to prove the inaccurate assertion wrong later and try to communicate that to people who don’t know on the largest platforms currently available.

    It would be great to figure out how to provide that real-time truth evaluation information in a way that can’t be hijacked by Karl Rove.

    The best idea I saw before Ad Hawk was that journalism school in St. Petersburg, FL. First, that a newspaper-owning family would take the paper away from its heirs, create a j-school, and leave the paper to that school in trust, is just marvelous. But then, they set up a fact-checking website and had journalism students check the facts. I know people aren’t happy with all the results but that’s a great indication that they’re fact-checking the fact checkers.
    N.B.: Wikipedia tells me that the St. Petersburg Times now belongs to Tampa Bay. Wonder what happened there.

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