It monitors politicians distracted by their smartphones thanks to artificial intelligence

Concentrate, you are being watched. In Belgium, a citizen has developed a tool that allows to check the level of attention of MPs, and to call them to order automatically on social networks.

It is a tool that does not automatically find the resorts of Jean-Michel Blanquer, but to keep an eye on what is happening in assembly. Created by artist and developer Dries Depoorter, the Flemish Scrollers program (The Flemish Scrollers) uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to measure the level of attention of Belgian MPs during debates. And pin them on Twitter when they get too distracted by their phones.

Dries Depoorter explains that each session of the Flemish Parliament in Belgium is broadcast live on a YouTube channel. When a live stream starts, its software searches for phones and attempts to identify distracted politicians. The video of the culprit is then automatically posted on social media with the deputy tagged and asked to stay focused. For the moment, the account is relatively little followed since it accumulates some 7,000 subscribers on Twitter and a little more than 2,600 on Instagram.

The creator’s site reveals that the software is written in Python, uses machine learning to track smartphones and facial recognition to identify the politician. The program has been running since July 5, 2021. When there is no live meeting, it checks old videos uploaded to the YouTube channel.

However, the tool only seems to detect smartphones and not tablets, where part of candy Crush may be ongoing, unless it’s business data viewed on an Excel spreadsheet. And politicians glued to their mobiles can just as easily be scrolling through their Twitter feed as chatting with their parliamentary assistants. If some will retort that the idea is as populist as what it denounces, it remains spicy and funny.

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