Annenberg's 'FlackCheck' attacks deceptive political ads
FlackCheck recently launched a 'Stand by Your Ad' campaign
February 21, 2012, 8:44 pm·
At first, the political ad seems typical.
An elderly woman recounts firefighters saving her granddaughter’s life, stressing the importance of an initiative known as Issue 2.
A narrator continues, “She’s right. By voting no on Issue 2, our safety will be threatened. Vote yes on Issue 2.”
But Kathleen Hall Jamieson, communications professor and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, cannot stand “the deception in that ad,” she wrote in an email.
In fact, the ad — which ran in Ohio in October — had taken the clip of the woman from another political ad. In the other ad, she had gone on to say, “That’s why it is so important to vote no on Issue 2.”
FlackCheck is a new project that aims to use humor to combat false political advertising.
To achieve this goal, it recently launched a “Stand by Your Ad” campaign, calling on local broadcast stations to refuse to air incorrect or misleading third-party political ads. It is using the Ohio ad, which dozens of local television stations pulled off the air, as a precedent.
A particular focus of FlackCheck’s efforts is advertising by super PACs, a type of political action committee that is getting increasingly involved in the political process and tries to influence the presidential campaign.
“To assist station managers and viewers, FlackCheck.org’s ‘Media Watch’ page is both flagging deceptive presidential ads in primary and caucus states and identifying the stations airing them,” the organization wrote in a statement.
An example of an ad criticized by FlackCheck is one released by Restore our Future, which supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. It claimed that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich co-sponsored a bill “that would have given $60 million a year to a U.N. program supporting China’s brutal one-child policy,” which is demonstrably false.
Although stations are “required to accept ads from candidates for federal office and may not censor their ads,” they can refuse to air deceptive ads from super PACs, Jamieson wrote.
“Bottom line, [the] prime reason [a] station might decide to insist on the accuracy of third-party ads is the belief that doing so would be valued by the community.”
FlackCheck held its official launch party in Washington, D.C. last Thursday.
“FlackCheck’s mission includes holding media accountable,” Jamieson wrote.
Its other efforts include a series of ads that question Abraham Lincoln’s electability, parodying the style of today’s attack ads.
The first of these ads, released in November, criticizes Lincoln and concludes that he is “wrong on the war, wrong for the union.”