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This article was published on July 6, 2021

This AI publicly shames politicians, but don’t laugh just yet

You could also be a target

This AI publicly shames politicians, but don’t laugh just yet
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC. Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC.

A Belgian artist has devised a novel way to catch misbehaving politicians: automatically tagging the rogues who use their phones at work.

Dries Depoorter is using AI to monitor YouTube videos of Flemish government meetings. When the stream starts, his software uses machine learning to find phones in the footage, and facial recognition to identify politicians using the devices.

Videos of the distracted lawmakers are then posted to the Twitter and Instagram accounts of the project, for a bit of good old public shaming.

As a long-suffering subject of British Conservative governments, I’m loathe to defend negligent politicians. But this project gives me the creeps — and I suspect that’s the whole point.

I imagine most of us have checked our phones during a meeting. It might sometimes be to mindlessly scroll through social media, but in other cases, it could be for an urgent reason. Regardless, the perpetual monitoring of employees isn’t something I’d welcome in my workplace.

But that could be how “the Flemish Scrollers” makes its most powerful impact: raising awareness of AI surveillance creep — and the need to curb it. When the lawmakers become the targets, they may be more eager to regulate the weapons.

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