Press release: Cassetteboy and Privacy International launch a new ‘mashup’ video, skewering the UK Government’s technological response to the public health crisis

Privacy International today launch a specially commissioned video by Cassetteboy, about the UK government’s technological hubris in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

Press release
algorithm shtick quote from Casseteboy video

The new satirical video is a critique of the government's reliance on 'technological solutionism' in the fight against Coronavirus and increasingly across public services more widely, and their willingness to then scapegoat ‘mutant algorithms’ when their hopes for technological panaceas inevitably fail.

The two-minute video splices together clips of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, cleverly editing his speeches so that he mouths sentences such as:

  • 'Coronavirus won’t affect you if your immunity passport’s blue'
  • 'You can tell our technology’s going well, we’re running this whole thing in Excel'
  • 'A mutant algorithm trick, when it goes wrong, the blame won’t stick'
  • 'Our system’s world-beating at self-defeating'
  • 'So when results are not forthcoming, don’t ask me, ask Dominic Cummings' 
  • 'It’s not my responsibility. The computer does it all you see'

Harmit Kambo, Campaigns Director at PI said:
"The government continually looks to technology to save the day in the fight against Coronavirus, and for delivering public services more generally. But then when it goes wrong  they have a convenient scapegoat in ‘mutant algorithms’.

We now find ourselves in a liminal space between political accountability and technological governance - whether it’s what exam results A-Level students ’deserve’, your eligibility for benefits, and even your access to health advice.

It's humans that must take ultimate responsibility for the far reaching decisions that algorithms now make about how we are governed. So, while we hope Cassetteboy’s video raises a laugh, we also hope it serves as a reminder to our political leaders that their ‘algorithm shtick’ won’t wash, and we will always hold them to account."  

Cassetteboy said:
"The UK Government's failures in the fight against Covid have largely been failures of technology, caused by hubris, cronyism, dither and delay.  These failures are having a lasting impact on the economy and the ever-mounting death toll. This seemed like a cheery subject for a comedy song."


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