Minister mocked for social media network launch

The new Culture Secretary has prompted joy and mockery by launching a social media app named after himself.

Matt Hancock has opened a platform where users can apply for verification, watch live streams of him, add each other and send messages.

In a video that appears upon opening it for the first time, Mr Hancock cheerily declares the app is to help him engage with his West Suffolk constituents and let them raise and discuss important issues.

Despite the app’s serious intentions, the network has been inundated with memes and jokes poking fun at it.

Fake accounts have also sprung up, with one post from “Damo Green”, alluding to the Cabinet Office minister fired over false statements about watching porn on his parliamentary computer, reading: “Hi Matt, where’s the incognito mode?”

Another purporting to be from Lord Bates, the peer who tried to resign as a minister for missing a question in the House of Lords on Wednesday, says: “Sorry all, am I late?”

Others compared it to satirical TV show The Thick Of It, which depicts a technophobe minister launching a government app with the slogan “I call app Britain”.

Labour MP Liam Byrne has tabled a question in the House of Commons about how the new internet age verification regulator will check if app users are old enough to view the pornography being uploaded on it.

Serious technical issues have also been raised.

Pat Walshe, a data protection and privacy consultant, said there was no privacy policy on the app’s landing page – a breach of Apple’s guidelines.

He also claimed there were “questions of fair and lawful processing” of users’ information, including photos on their phone.

Close-up of the App Store application icon on the screen of the iPhone 6.

Image: The minister has denied claims that his app breaches security standards

Silkie Carlo, director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: “The Matt Hancock app is a fascinating comedy of errors.

“It is quite fitting, given this government’s incompetence on digital privacy issues, that our digital minister’s app steals a bank of users’ personal photographs, even when permission to access them is denied.”

Mr Hancock, who was promoted from digital minister to lead the department in last month’s cabinet reshuffle, responded hours after the app’s launch.

He denied it breached security standards because it uses “Apple technology” and said it would be better than traditional social media platforms because it gave “complete editorial control”, community moderation and user privacy.

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“I’m delighted to have the chance to use this to build a safe, open and accessible online community for my West Suffolk constituents and I to engage with the issues that matter to them,” Mr Hancock said.

Despite the debate raging over the app, one user’s post featured on the “hottest” content tab admits: “I know we’re all taking the p*** but… it’s actually quite nice on here, isn’t it?”

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