Yesterday, Dan Phiffer and I launched Speechology.org. Think of it as an online fact checker for political ads and debates. Here’s the backstory:

A few months ago, I was watching the New Hampshire Republican debate. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee got into an argument when Huckabee accused Romney of not supporting the surge:

MR. ROMNEY: Number two — number two, I did support the surge. On the same day the president announced the surge, I also…laid out my plan that I thought made sense — actually, even before the president’s speech — calling for additional troops; I called for a different number. So I also supported the surge from the very beginning.

But look, I — you know, Governor

MR. HUCKABEE: I’m way over.

MR. ROMNEY: Don’t try and characterize my position. Of course, this war has

MR. HUCKABEE: Which one? (Scattered laughter.)

MR. ROMNEY: You know — you know, we’re wise to talk about policies and not to make personal attacks.

MR. HUCKABEE: Well, it’s not a personal attack, Mitt, because you also supported a timed withdrawal. And Senator Pryor, from my state

MR. ROMNEY: No, that’s

MR. HUCKABEE: — was praising you for that, and

MR. ROMNEY: I do not — I do not support and have never support a timed withdrawal. So that’s wrong, Governor.

When the dust settled, Charlie Gibson just went on to the next topic, leaving every viewer wondering, “Well, what’s the truth?” The two candidates had made completely opposite claims about a historical event, and the journalist moderator made no effort to explain the contradiction or call out either candidate for being untruthful.

What good are these debates, I thought, if all they do is confuse voters while giving each candidate free air time for their own rhetoric?

On TV, it’s easy for a speaker to slip something past you if you’re not paying close attention. There needs to be a way for people to watch these debates through a filter that gives context to politicians’ words. This is what inspired Speechology. This need for context is even more important for campaign advertisements, which, along with liberal use of sound bites, add dramatic music and voiceovers to boot, making it easy to convince people without even saying anything factual.

I brought Dan on because I had no hope of doing it by myself. He’s even busier than I am, so it’s astonishing that he was able to bust out both the code and the design so quickly, and for free.

Well, almost free. Thanks to Micah Sifry, we got a mini-grant from the Sunlight Foundation. Without that validation of our idea, we never would have had the energy to carry it forward. So thanks, Sunlight!

Speechology.org. Check it out.