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Ex-Tory Minister slammed after saying “some autistic person” could attack global networks

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The ex-Tory MP and cabinet minister, Sir Oliver Letwin, has sparked outrage after claiming that global systems could come under attack by a person with autism.

In an unchallenged remark made on BBC Radio Four this morning, Letwin spoke about how global networks, such as telephone systems and power grid, are at risk of being compromised by various sources.

In addition to terrorists or state actors, Letwin claimed that “some autistic person” or “some strange youth” could instigate cyber attacks against global networks:

“[Global networks are at risk of] a terrorist attack, or another country attacking us, or in fact just some autistic person or some strange youth sitting in some part of the world.”

You can listen to Letwin’s comments below:

Unsurprisingly, people on Twitter responded almost immediately, accusing Letwin of spreading “myths” about autistic people and causing offence to them.

Disability campaigner, Nicky Clark – whose two children are both on the autistic spectrum – said she was in “tears of frustration” as it was the “second time in a couple of weeks” that someone on BBC Radio Four had “conflated autistic people with criminality“:

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And the criticism of Letwin’s crass comments kept coming:

And Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, told Evolve:

“This comment is deeply disappointing.

“Misunderstandings about autism and judgemental attitudes towards autistic people persist in our society: 50% of autistic people and their families tell us they sometimes don’t go out because they’re worried about how people will react to their autism.

“Language like this is unhelpful. It’s a lazy and wrong stereotype reinforcing a view about all hackers being strange autistic people.

“All of us, but particularly our public figures, have the power to shape public understanding of autism. We must use this for good.”

Letwin was appearing on Radio Four in an attempt to promote his new book on cyber crime.

The former Tory Minister has often been described as the “architect” of NHS privatisation – and his latest comments are highly unlikely to improve his negative public image.

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