Bill Gates has become a prime target for conspiracy theories and misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic. There are many posts all over YouTube, Facebook and Twitter about the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, claiming that he created COVID-19, and is looking to profit from a vaccine. Others also claim that he is behind a plot to use the illness to control(reduce) or surveil the global population, according to a report from The New York Times.
Misinformation that links Gates to the coronavirus includes more than 16,000 posts on Facebook this year that were liked and commented on nearly 900,000 times, according to the Times. Again, popular YouTube videos posted in March and April have been viewed nearly 5 million times. Misinformation related to Gates is the “most widespread of all coronavirus falsehoods” tracked by media analysis firm Zignal Labs, according to the Times.
Bill Gates has advocated for pandemic preparedness for years and famously gave a TED talk in 2015 that warned of the potentially staggering death toll a worldwide pandemic could create.
As the coronavirus pandemic has spread around the world, Gates has pledged $250 million to fight the disease and create a vaccine.
Incredibly, it’s these two factors that provide the foundation of the conspiracy theories that point to Gates as the origin of coronavirus and those conspiracy theories have rapidly gone from common online conspiracy theorists to the mouths of conservative pundits.
In an emailed statement, the Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman said conspiracy theories being spread online could damage public health.
“At a time like this, when the world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis, it’s distressing that there are people spreading misinformation when we should all be looking for ways to collaborate and save lives,” said Suzman. “Right now, one of the best things we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is spread the facts.”