Nadine Dorries reportedly put her foot in it when she asked Microsoft when it was going to “get rid” of its algorithms – a feature not usually linked to the computer company.
Dorries has only been digital, culture, media and sport secretary since Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle in September, but in that short time she’s developed quite the reputation for very public gaffes.
The cabinet minister has expressed bewilderment upon learning that children watch TV through YouTube, demonstrated that she doesn’t understand how Channel 4 is funded and admitted that she does not “do any news unless I am absolutely forced to”.
And it seems Dorries might have tripped up again with her latest misunderstanding of media.
According to a POLITICO report from Wednesday, Dorries “immediately” asked the international technology corporation Microsoft when they were going to “get rid of algorithms” during a meeting.
Algorithms are used in most computers, including by Microsoft, and is fundamental to the technology. But its use is mainly criticised when employed on social media to direct users towards just one type of content. This can create “echo chambers” and help reinforce a certain kind of message.
The report also claims Dorries mentioned the same issue again “in a separate stakeholders meeting”.
Not only is this the wrong place to be mentioning it, but campaigners who have scrutinised algorithms have pushed for reforms on the design rather than a complete ban.
Dorries has mentioned the dangers of algorithms before and the effect it can have on children using platforms such as Instagram or Twitter, as it may direct them towards increasingly dangerous content based on what they engage with.
However, POLITICO’s Annabelle Dickson claims: “For all Dorries’ passion, some of those who have worked closely with her say she has, at times, lacked a grasp of details.”
Here’s what her Twitter critics had to say about this latest slip-up:
The timing of this POLITICO report – released on Wednesday – does also risk overshadowing the online safety bill Dorries is championing this week, which aims to push social media bosses to act over harmful content on their sites.