Coronavirus conspiracy theorists target Bill Gates with false claim

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates has become the target of a conspiracy theory linking him to the novel coronavirus, The New York Times reported Friday.

Gates foresaw the kind of devastation a pandemic could bring if world leaders didn't prepare five years ago and has been using his platform to raise awareness about COVID-19 since the early days of the outbreak.

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Because of his 2015 foresight, internet trolls are using social media to spread the conspiracy theory that the Microsoft founder started the virus outbreak himself, and his efforts to help those in need are just a way to mask the truth.

Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during the Neglected Tropical Diseases Summit in Geneva, Switzerland, April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

Anti-vaccine and population-control conspiracy theorists have also used social media to spread the idea that Gates, who supports vaccinations and has expressed the belief that proper health and reproductive care can reduce rapid population growth, created the virus to spread a pro-vaccine message or to surveil the population.

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Internet trolls have also made note of Gates' commitment to the World Health Organization, which President Trump denounced in a Friday tweet for mishandling the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a sign that he was involved in the origins of the outbreak.

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Media analysis company Zingal labs found more than 16,000 Facebook posts linking Gates to the virus that were liked and commented on nearly 900,000 times. The 10 most popular YouTube conspiracy theory videos about Gates and COVID-19 have been viewed nearly 5 million times, according to the Times.

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Neal Browning receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seat

Gates and has donated more than $100 million to relief efforts through his charity and detailed a three-step plan in a Washington Post op-ed that ran March 31 for the United States to beat the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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"There's no question the United States missed the opportunity to get ahead of the novel coronavirus, but the window for making important decisions hasn't closed," the billionaire wrote.

"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," he continued.

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