Conspiracy theories linking Bill Gates to depopulation and the COVID-19 vaccine spread online.
Many tweets reference a 2010 TED Talk where Gates talked about reducing emissions.
The billionaire philanthropist has been a frequent target of conspiracy theorists.
Conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, which misrepresent a quote from the Microsoft founder about population growth, are spreading on Twitter, despite rules that ban certain types of misinformation.
Tweets falsely suggesting that Gates supports depopulating the Earth spread on the platform on Tuesday night and Wednesday. They were still available as of Thursday morning.
Many of the tweets reference a 2010 TED Talk, “Innovation to Zero!,” in which Gates spoke at length about how to reduce toxic carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.
“First, we’ve got population,” Gates said in the talk, introducing ways of reducing emissions. “The world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s headed up to about nine billion. Now, if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by, perhaps, 10% or 15%. But there, we see an increase of about 1.3.”
By “population,” Gates was referencing how using vaccines to improve public health could reduce unsustainable population growth in the near future, Reuters reported in April, when social media users were spreading the same quote out of context. In 2011, Gates told Forbes that he saw data that suggested that lower mortality rates could result in lower birth rates, which would help deal with overpopulation.
“It goes against common sense,” Gates told Forbes. “We moved pretty heavily into vaccines once we understood that.”
Gates’ ex-wife, Melinda Gates, elaborated on why improving public health could reduce overpopulation in 2018 on Bill’s blog, Gates Notes.
“When more children live past the age of 5, and when mothers can decide if and when to have children, population sizes don’t go up. They go down,” she said. “Parents have fewer children when they’re confident those children will survive into adulthood.”
One user falsely tweeted that the philanthropist wanted to reduce “only the ‘unsustainable’ population” – Gates argued in his TED Talk that the world’s population growth was unsustainable, not that a certain population of “unsustainable” people had to be reduced.
The musician Little Dee, who has over 26,000 followers on Twitter, tweeted a clip of the TED Talk on Tuesday with the caption, “2010 bill gates saying how to lower population.” The video embedded in Little Dee’s tweet has over 22,000 views.
Another user posted a meme on Tuesday morning that featured a picture of Gates’ face flanked by text bubbles. One of the text messages makes the unverified claim that Gates visited Jeffrey Epstein’s “Island” countless times. Reuters reported that though Gates and Epstein did meet, there’s no evidence that Gates visited his island.
Errol Webber, a cinematographer who unsuccessfully ran for California’s District 37 House seat in the United States 2020 election, tweeted a video on Tuesday of Gates speaking at a different TED event in 2015. “Tell me all this isn’t orchestrated,” Webber wrote in the tweet’s caption.
In the 2015 talk, “The next outbreak? We’re not ready,” Gates warned about the potential dangers of a highly infectious virus and a massive epidemic and stressed the need to prepare for it. Since March 2020, clips from that TED talk have circulated among conspiracy theorists baselessly alleging that Gates himself personally planned the spread of the virus.
Webber’s tweet amassed over 25,000 views, 1,000 likes, and 700 retweets. Many people in the comment section shared his sentiment and spread conspiracy theories about Gates. The post is still available to view as of Thursday morning.
Little Dee and Webber did not immediately respond to requests for further clarification on their tweets.
In response to the baseless conspiracy theories spreading on Twitter, the platform created an “event” page called “Bill Gates said health care and vaccines could reduce unsustainable population growth in a 2010 TED Talk, fact-checkers say,” which pops up when the words “Bill Gates” are typed into the search bar, after “Bill Gates” trended on the platform.
The event page featured a list of articles from the Associated Press, Reuters, and FactCheck.org fact-checking the incorrect claims about Gates that have been spreading.
Twitter users are not allowed to post misleading information related to the COVID-19 pandemic or the efficacy of vaccines, according to the site’s rules, including content that invokes “a deliberate conspiracy by malicious and/or powerful forces.”
Users are also not permitted to spread false or misleading information about “vaccines and vaccination programs which suggest that COVID-19 vaccinations are part of a deliberate or intentional attempt to cause harm or control populations,” the platform’s rules state.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
Gates is a frequent target for conspiracy theorists. In February, some people were baselessly accusing him of being responsible for the mass power outage in Texas, while false conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines containing microchips that would allow Gates and Microsoft to track people have also spread on social media, as Insider previously reported.
From February to April 2020, conspiracy theories linking Gates and COVID-19 appeared over 1.2 million times on social media and television, according to the intelligence company Zignal Labs, as reported by The New York Times.
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