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This AI project stalks politicians fixated on their phones, names and shames them on Twitter and Instagram too

A screenshot of the The Flemish Scrollers software published by Dries Depoorter, identifying politicians using their phones.  A screenshot of the The Flemish Scrollers software published by Dries Depoorter, identifying politicians using their phones. 
A screenshot of the The Flemish Scrollers software published by Dries Depoorter, identifying politicians using their phones.  (Dries Depoorter/The Flemish Scrollers)

It looks like the days of politicians goofing around on their phones are over, especially as they can be named and shamed on Twitter and Instagram by this AI project started by artist Dries Depoorter.

Using smartphones while working has become a natural part of our daily routine, but should politicians be using their phones during sessions? Distracted politicians who are not doing their jobs are now in the crosshairs of a Belgian software developer who has written a program to identify lawmakers getting distracted by their phones and then even takes to Twitter and tweets clips of them for the whole world to see - a naming and shaming experience they will not ever forget.

The AI program called The Flemish Scrollers was created by Belgian artist Dries Depoorter and makes use of face recognition and AI to identify the politician and their phones. The videos of distracted politicians identified by the program are then shared on Twitter and Instagram, tagging the official handles of the politician in the video.

Also read: Looking for a smartphone? Check Mobile Finder here.

Depoorter sources his videos from official live streams of the Flemish government that is available to the public on YouTube. The software then identifies the politicians with a rectangle shape and a percentage sign for both their face and their cellphones. The software also appears to be capable of monitoring multiple faces, based on the screenshot of the identified politicians holding smartphones.

Depoorter also told Gizmodo, the app could soon be made open source, which means that anyone around the world could be able to use the technology to keep an eye on their politicians – assuming a public video feed is available. He also hopes to highlight the dangers of facial recognition technology, which has been known to be inaccurate with people of colour. As more countries around the world begin to accept facial recognition, this might just be the best way to convince lawmakers – by showing them the capabilities and weaknesses of the technology.

It is unclear whether the app was inspired by a 2019 incident when the Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon was caught playing the popular Angry Birds game on his phone while a debate was going on. Depoorter is also known for his work on a chat application app called ‘Die With Me’ that only works when your phone battery is below five percent – the app is available on the Play Store.

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