Former health secretary Matt Hancock is continuing his march to become the master of the metaverse by unveiling a bizarre avatar.
Since the West Suffolk MP was defenestratad from his old job on the back of a scandal where he broke his own social distancing rules, Hancock has embarked on a tour to hype up the UK’s tech community.
Now he has become the first UK MP to have his own personalised avatar. However, if Hancock hoped the avatar would cement his reputation as King Tech, he is in for a disappointment. The avatar has been absolutely panned online.
One Twitter user compared the avatar to Judge Rinder, the star of a British arbitration-based reality court show.
Another simply commented that the avatar had given the former health minister a “very generous hairline”.
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A third said: “You can be literally anything you want in the metaverse, so why on earth would Matt Hancock still choose to be Matt Hancock?”
Hancock wants an open metaverse
However, it was no laughing matter to the backbencher. Hancock didn’t just unveil his avatar, but also delivered a speech about his vision for the metaverse. The event was hosted by Shift, the collaboration platform created by Whitespace. Hancock referred to the metaverse as an “important and exciting” new technology.
He also spent part of his speech echoing the talking points of cryptocurrency libertarians who reject Big Tech’s dominance over the internet. This is something blockchain evangelists hope will be solved with the rollout of Web3, which the metaverse is set to be a part of.
In a four-minute recording of the event, Hancock lamented how “the mainstream media” and big corporations are allowed to have a louder voice than other people.
“If you’re one of the richest people in the world, you can buy one of those town squares in order explicitly to choose to set the rules of the game as you see fit,” Hancock said.
“Now, I think that the public discourse needs a democratic basis. And I think it needs to be based on open standards and a free and open environment in which all comers are able to contribute.”
History of tech flops
Hancock entering the metaverse is not his first foray into the realms of technology. Having started his career in his family’s computer company, he stepped into the role of secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport in 2018.
During his tenure, he launched his own social media platform, the so-called Matt App. The idea was that it would empower his constituents to follow him more easily. The project was widely criticised. Not only did it collect private data about its users, but it was also accused of having some serious privacy issues.
“The Matt Hancock app is a fascinating comedy of errors,” Silkie Carlo, the director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, told WIRED at the time. “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.”
As health secretary, Hancock was later the mastermind behind the government’s failed track and trace app. Hancock championed the app as a tool to “hunt down and isolate the virus so it’s unable to reproduce”.
The government spent £12m developing the app, but only seemed able to produce stern warnings from privacy advocates and missed deadlines.
By June 2020, Hancock started to downplay the role technology would play in controlling the pandemic. Instead, he said the true power to protect people lay among people.
“The app is the cherry on the cake; it enables you to find other contacts you wouldn’t be able to disclose even if you wanted to because you don’t know about them,” Hancock said at the time.
Then the homegrown track and trace project was abandoned in June, 2020. The government had instead decided to develop a rival app based on Apple and Google’s technology.
During his tenure as health secretary, he did help roll out the NHS app, though. His tenure came to shocking close in June 2021 after a video was leaked to the press, showing him making out with an adviser.
The extramarital affair forced him to resign as it meant that he had broken the rules that he himself had put in place to protect the British public from the contagion.
GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.