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|Doctored photos and fabricated news articles crafted by conspiracy theorists – shared thousands of times on social media platforms and messaging apps, in various languages – targeting Gates has gained traction online since the start of the pandemic. Photo: AFP|
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates on July 23 pushed back against some of the conspiracy theories spreading online accusing him of creating the coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s a bad combination of pandemic and social media and people looking for a very simple explanation,” the Microsoft founder said during a CNN Town Hall interview.
Doctored photos and fabricated news articles crafted by conspiracy theorists – shared thousands of times on social media platforms and messaging apps, in various languages – targeting Gates has gained traction online since the start of the pandemic.
A video accusing Gates of wanting “to eliminate 15% of the population” through vaccination and electronic microchips has racked up millions of views on YouTube, reported AFP.
“Our foundation has given more money to buy vaccines to save lives than any group,” Gates said, referring to his eponymous foundation.
He has pledged US$250mil in efforts to fight the pandemic, and his foundation has spent billions of dollars improving health care in developing countries over the past 20 years.
“So you just turn that around. You say, ok, we’re making money and we’re trying to kill people with vaccines or by inventing something,” Gates continued.
“And at least it’s true, we’re associated with vaccines, but you actually have sort of flipped the connection,” he said, adding he hopes the conspiracies don’t generate “vaccine hesitancy”.
|A protestor wears a face mask reading "Give Gates (refering to Bill Gates) no Chance" as she attends a protest against restrictions implemented in order to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: AFP|
Since the start of the crisis, AFP Fact Check has debunked dozens of anti-Gates rumours circulating on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram in several languages including English, French, Spanish, Polish and Czech.
A number of accusations, including posts claiming that the FBI arrested Gates for biological terrorism or that he supports a Western plot to poison Africans, share a common thread.
They accuse the tycoon of exploiting the crisis, whether it is to “control people” or make money from selling vaccines.
“I’m a big believer in getting the truth out,” Gates told CNN.
It is not the first time Gates has found himself targeted by conspiracy theorists. When Zika virus broke out in 2015 in Brazil, he was one of several powerful Western figures blamed for the disease.
Other rumours claim he is secretly a lizard, an old favourite among online trolls.
|Bill and Melinda Gates have pledged $250 million to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: TrialSiteNews|
|Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.|
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AFP, CNN, New Straits Times