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Site seeks to spur political ad swaps

P2P Politics wants you to share your favorite attack ads. Maybe even the nice ones too.

Voters in political ad-saturated swing states might want to avoid the P2P Politics Web site, which aims to let people swap campaign commercials via e-mail.

But for anyone who has missed the ads now barraging battleground states with all the relentlessness of a Florida hurricane, a trip to the new civic-minded site might be in order.

The new Web site is backed by Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig and his Creative Commons foundation, which promotes a version of copyright that facilitates widespread distribution and use of content.

"Political ads have one purpose," Lessig said in a statement. "That is to elect the candidate they support. With just...two weeks to go, we expect the campaigns will be eager to help their supporters get the message out."

Indeed, although the site's role in shifting voters' opinions is likely to be small, it is a real part of what has been a radical transformation in campaigning and political awareness this year due to the Internet.

From huge gains in grassroots fund raising to dispersed armies of cell phone-wielding volunteers directed by Internet-accessible databases, the Net has finally begun to fulfill its promise as a political tool.

A big part of its role has been in helping direct information to people who might otherwise have missed it, as Lessig's site is attempting to do.

The goal of the site is to archive "political speech" produced by individuals, the candidates and their allies, and let visitors to the site send links to specific videos by e-mail. The site also allows visitors to post comments on the commercials.

So far, only John Kerry's campaign and the anti-Bush MoveOn.org group have submitted content. The site's designers, J Christopher Garcia and Aaron Swartz, say they hope to post ads supporting Bush and Nader as well, however.

All ads are hosted by the Internet Archive. The service does not use the peer-to-peer file-swapping technology from more familiar networks such as Kazaa and eDonkey.