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Bill Gates has become a top target for coronavirus conspiracy theories

Philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has become the leading target of far-right conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in The New York Times.

The Times consulted media analysis company Zignal Labs, which tracks posts on Facebook and found 16,000 posts on the site about Gates and coronavirus which between them had been liked and commented on almost 900,000 times.

This makes Gates the largest target of conspiracy theories on all of Facebook.

Among the bogus conspiracy theories about Gates is a claim that a patent filed by the Gates Foundation-funded Pirbright Institute was for the coronavirus itself; the patent was actually for a vaccine against a different type of coronavirus which affects poultry.

That false claim was shared by the fringe far-right website Infowars and has spread among conspiracy theorists on Facebook in particular.

But Gates isn’t only being targeted by the fringe far-right. Anti-vaccine advocates have also pushed claims that Gates’ support for a coronavirus vaccine is only to line his own pocket. Even Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy and outspoken anti-vaxxer, has shared conspiracy theory memes about Gates, the Times reported.

Gates has been sounding the alarm about the world’s lack of preparedness for a global health epidemic since 2015, when he gave a TED Talk and published a paper in a medical journal warning that there was a “critical need” for stronger public health systems and more funding for monitoring disease outbreaks.

Conspiracy theorists have cited that TED Talk as proof, not that Gates was warning about the pandemic, but that he would use a pandemic to seize control of the global economy, the Times reported.

Gates has recently criticized the U.S. response to the crisis for being too slow, arguing that delaying a shutdown or ending it too early would hasten the spread of the disease.

Gates has also slammed President Trump for his decision to withhold funding from the World Health Organization, arguing on Twitter that, “The world needs WHO now more than ever.”

Concerns about the spread of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, have caused a surge in wild conspiracy theories about its origin, such as wild accusations that the virus is caused by the rolling out of 5G. There is no scientific evidence linking 5G to coronavirus — or to any other health condition.

For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.

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