Protesters gathered at the Capitol in Austin Saturday afternoon to rally against local stay-at-home orders and to demand Texas businesses reopen. Videos circulating online at the rally show protesters holding signs calling the coronavirus pandemic a hoax and shouting “arrest Bill Gates.”
Bill Gates’ vocal stance on how to combat the coronavirus has made him a massive target of online conspiracy theorists, a New York Times analysis suggested.
In posts on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, he is being falsely portrayed as the creator of Covid-19, as a profiteer from a virus vaccine, and as part of a dastardly plot to use the illness to cull or surveil the global population.
The media analysis company Zignal Labs found that posts on social media falsely claiming that the Microsoft founder engineered the virus had exploded since the beginning of this year. In total, Zignal Labs found that conspiracy theories involving Gates and the virus had been mentioned 1.2 million times on social media and TV broadcasts, The New York Times said.
Especially since Mr. Gates has sharpened his comments about the White House’s handling of the coronavirus in recent weeks.
“There’s no question the United States missed the opportunity to get ahead of the novel coronavirus,” he wrote in an opinion column in The Washington Post on March 31. “The choices we and our leaders make now will have an enormous impact on how soon case numbers start to go down, how long the economy remains shut down and how many Americans will have to bury a loved one because of Covid-19.”
In a 2015 speech, Bill Gates warned that the greatest risk to humanity was not war but an infectious virus that could threaten the lives of millions of people. That speech has resurfaced in recent weeks with 25 million new views on YouTube - but not in the way that Mr. Gates probably intended.
“The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than ebola,” he said. “You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane, or they go to a market.”
Indeed, that is exactly the case with the novel coronavirus - symptoms of the disease don’t necessarily manifest for up to 14 days, and potentially longer.
“I’d say it’s ironic if you take somebody who’s doing their best to get the world ready,” Gates responded regarding the accusation that he’s the creator of the virus.