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‘We must tackle the epidemic of stupid tweets’

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daily probe 580x387px

Speech by the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP. Delivered on: 20 March 2019 (Original script, may differ from tweets…)

’Today, we address a new scientific breakthrough: predictive texts. I talk a lot, as health secretary, about the need to harness technology to improve and save lives. This past week, that’s been brought directly home to me.

‘Last week I took part in a predictive text test. I wanted to find out whether I was at high risk of any bad press from a stupid tweet.

‘I was really looking forward to it. The process was simple and easy: spit on your hand, wiggle it about on a smart phone, send a tweet. I waited a couple of minutes while the tweet was analysed by a team at Oxford University.

‘The bad news? The tweet showed that, despite no family history, I’m in the worst 20% for idiocy.

‘I have around a 50% higher risk of a Darwin award than the average person. I was obviously worried when I was first told this.

‘But while it’s not good news, it’s good news to have. Death from idiocy is more treatable if diagnosed early. But idiocy can be a silent killer, and tragically, so many men don’t find out until it’s too late.

But it doesn’t have to be.

I wanted to find out whether I was at high risk of any bad press, and how it would make me feel

‘It may sound weird but I’m now absolutely delighted. I’ve already booked a Skype call from my online doctor, and obviously I’ll be on alert as I get older. By using predictive texting we can help people at higher risk of a stupid tweet earlier.

‘And we can’t just ignore it.

‘After all, thousands of people are already at risk of sending stupid tweets, and many are now turning up at their GP surgery. We need to harness the power of this new technology to diagnose and prevent idiocy, and that means using it right.

‘Some people say we shouldn’t encourage the “worried well”. I feel that’s the wrong response. We need to understand that people will have genuine concerns and we must give them the help and support they need to make sense. If that means taking their phones off them when they want to tweet something stupid about screening, so be it.’

Today’s Daily Probe report is written by Dr Samir Dawlatly, a GP in Birmingham