The world’s second-richest man has reportedly become the No. 1 target of coronavirus conspiracy theorists.
Theories linking Microsoft magnate Bill Gates to COVID-19 have exploded in recent months as right-wing conspiracists and anti-vaccine zealots accused him of using the virus to control the masses, the New York Times reported Friday.
Bogus ideas about Gates and the deadly virus were mentioned on social media and TV 1.2 million times from February to April — more than any other virus-related conspiracy theory, media analysis firm Zignal Labs told the Times.
The paper also found more than 16,000 Facebook posts about Gates and the coronavirus that generated nearly 900,000 likes and comments this year, along with 10 popular YouTube videos that have been viewed nearly 5 million times.
Some online cranks are reportedly basing their wild theories about Gates — who was worth $104 billion as of Thursday — on a 2015 speech in which he predicted an infectious virus was more likely than war to kill millions of people.
Conspiracy theorists have also warped his more recent words like his March suggestion that “digital certificates” could be used to track who has recovered from the virus.
That evolved into a bogus claim that Gates wanted to put microchips in people’s bodies — an idea former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone echoed in a recent radio interview.
Gates’ main charity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has supported public health initiatives around the world and pledged to put $250 million toward fighting the coronavirus. Foundation CEO Mark Suzman told the Times it’s “distressing that there are people spreading misinformation when we should all be looking for ways to collaborate and save lives.”