Bill Gates has been the target of a variety of unproven or false coronavirus conspiracy theories, many connected to his work on vaccines, his foundation’s funding of the World Health Organization and his interest in global health and pandemics. Now, a new report in The Washington Post and various posts on the dark web allege that the Gates Foundation may have been hacked.
According to The Washington Post, nearly 25,000 email addresses and passwords that appear to belong to people working at the Gates Foundation, World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institutes of Health were posted online by “anonymous activists.” The Post attributed its research to SITE Intelligence Group, an organization known for tracking terrorist networks online.
The Gates Foundation told the Post it didn’t “currently have an indication of a data breach at the foundation.”
The newspaper reported that the SITE Intelligence Group was not able to definitively verify the email addresses and passwords but said they were “almost immediately used to foment attempts at hacking and harassment by far-right extremists,” who have been spreading conspiracy theories about coronavirus. However, others have raised questions about the purported hack; Robert Potter, a cyber security expert, wrote on Twitter, “The WHO list is genuine but it appears to be from an earlier attack. Healthcare agencies in particular are traditionally quite bad at cyber security.”
SITE Intelligence Group’s Rita Katz wrote on Twitter on April 21, “Prominent Neo-Nazis group disseminating allegedly ‘hacked’ emails from @gatesfoundation & @WHO, two partner orgs at front of #coronavirus fight. Data posted first to chan board & pasting site. @siteintelgroup/@SITE_CYBER currently investigating.”
She added: “Alleged email/pw lists, which far-right attempting to use toward harassment campaign, span following orgs & respective unique entries:
@WHO: 2,732 (also contains non-WHO domains)
World Bank: 5,120
Wuhan Institute of Virology: 21.”
She wrote that “far-right seized on the data w harassment campaign as part of a months-long initiative to weaponize the pandemic… Authenticity of the data still under investigation, but some has been confirmed. The lists of these creds, housed on pasting site, appear to first be posted to far right-frequented 4chan. Unclear data was retrieved/compiled by a far-right actor(s), tho not out of the question.”
According to Cyber Security Magazine, one user who purports to have seen hacked information wrote online that “most of the files are related to the Ebola crisis and HIV,” not COVID-19, although the information was not verified.
In addition, email addresses and passwords also appeared online for The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Bank. The Post reported that the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the lab in the city where coronavirus first emerged, was also “targeted.”
Heavy has reviewed lists of emails and passwords attributed to the World Health Organization, Wuhan Virology Lab and Gates Foundation that were posted through Pastebin. We are choosing not to publish or link to the lists. They are pages of emails with supposedly corresponding passwords. Many of the email addresses bear the ender gatesfoundation.org. The Post reported that the lists first emerged on 4chan.
In addition, other online forums are posting links to email addresses purportedly from the Wuhan lab. On them, some people online were making fun of people’s passwords, with one writing, “Looks like a bunch of Boomer passwords were used ‘123456.’” One Twitter user posted screenshots and wrote, “PEOPLE ARE SCOURING THEIR EMAILS AND FINDING OUT SH*T.”
Heavy has also reviewed some 4chan threads on which hackers discuss attempting to use the email addresses and passwords. Some of them also contain racist language, including against former President Barack Obama and use of the “N” word. One user wrote on 4chan, “I’ve already done a full scan of the contents. There’s nothing here, really. I’m going to sleep.” Wrote another, “Email addresses and passwords for Wuhan Virology lab leaked. Valiant anons probing as much as they can, I’m about to jump on my PC and join in.” One unproven rumor being spread online alleges “they’ve spliced the virus with HIV.”
However, a research paper that previously alleged that there were similarities between COVID-19 and HIV was withdrawn after its findings were criticized as rushed and coincidental, according to Statnews.
Gates has been at odds with President Donald Trump’s decision to stop funding for the World Health Organization, of which Gates is a major funder, writing on Twitter, “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.”
Trump had accused WHO of not doing enough to stop the coronavirus, saying, according to The New York Times, “So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” referring to WHO. The president accused WHO of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” saying he believed WHO’s opposition to U.S. travel restrictions on China were “disastrous,” Politico reported.
In a March 31 column in The Washington Post, Gates wrote, “There’s no question the United States missed the opportunity to get ahead of the novel coronavirus.”
Gates was asked in a television interview with CGTN about the conspiracy theories against him and said, “I’d say it’s ironic that you take someone who’s doing their best to get the world ready and putting, in my case, billions of dollars into these tools for infectious diseases, and really trying to solve broadly infectious diseases — including those that cause pandemics. But we’re in a crazy situation, so there’s going to be crazy rumors.” CGTN is part of the China Global Television Network group.
Here’s what you need to know:
Bill Gates, Who Has Warned About Pandemics for Years, Is the Target of Conspiracy Theories Due to His Support of Vaccinations & Comments About Population Reduction
Fast Company reported that Gates has issued many warnings about a possible pandemic over the past decade and donated $250 million to fight the coronavirus pandemic. You can read a roundup of the many times Gates has issued such warnings here.
In 2015, he gave a well-known TED talk in which he warned the world was not ready for the next pandemic and in which he spoke about Ebola. “If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war,” he said in that talk (the video of which you can watch above). In an interview on April 16, Gates said he has focused on preparedness for a pandemic.
Gates has been the target of COVID-19 conspiracy theories on YouTube, including by a Florida preacher named Pastor Adam Fannin, whose YouTube video on Gates was viewed more than a million times. Gates has been targeted by anti-vaccination groups in particular. According to the New York Times, Zignal Labs found that false information about Gates and coronavirus was rampant online, including more than 16,000 Facebook posts and 10 videos on YouTube viewed about five million times.
The Times traced the first Bill Gates/COVID-19 conspiracy theory to January and his funding of a vaccine patent for a coronavirus, but it was one that affects poultry and wasn’t COVID-19, the newspaper reported. This theory involves The Pirbright Institute, which Gates’ foundation supports, but its work on coronaviruses didn’t involve those that affect humans, according to Politifact.
According to The New York Times, right-wing conspiracy theorists with groups like QAnon have accused Gates of planning “to use a pandemic to wrest control of the global health system.” The theories range from false accusations that he created COVID-19 to claims he would profit from a vaccine or wanted to reduce or track the world’s population, The Times reports.
One longstanding conspiracy theory against Gates alleged he “openly admitted that vaccinations are designed so that governments can depopulate the world,” according to Snopes, which labeled the claim false back in 2017. Gates had said on CNN, “Over this decade, we believe unbelievable progress can be made, in both inventing new vaccines and making sure they get out to all the children who need them … We only need about six or seven more — and then you would have all the tools to reduce childhood death, reduce population growth, and everything — the stability, the environment — benefits from that.”
Snopes criticized a site called Your News Wire for alleging that Bill Gates told people “how we must all consent to a ‘kill the humans’ strategy, to ‘save the planet’ from the carbon dioxide we make.” Rather, Snopes reported, Gates has long been an advocate of reducing infant mortality, believing that parents with living children will naturally have fewer of them because they won’t be afraid that the children will die.
Gates’ conspiracy theorists, like Fannin, have argued that Gates wants to implant “quantum dot tattoos” in people with COVID-19. Fast Company explains that this claim derives from a real scientific experiment. Scientific American reported that “a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers” had developed a method to embed a vaccination record “directly into the skin.” Children would be injected with dye as part of the process. The Scientific American article says the research “was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and came about because of a direct request from Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates himself, who has been supporting efforts to wipe out diseases such as polio and measles across the world.”
On April 7, Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted, “Digitally tracking Americans’ every move has been a dream of the globalists for years. This health crisis is the perfect vehicle for them to push this.”
According to the New York Post, former Trump staffer Roger Stone alleged on a radio program: “Whether Bill Gates played some role in the creation and spread of this virus is open for vigorous debate. I have conservative friends who say it’s ridiculous and others say absolutely. He and other globalists are using it for mandatory vaccinations and microchipping people so we know if they’ve been tested. Over my dead body. Mandatory vaccinations? No way, Jose!”
Who is behind some of the conspiracy theories relating to coronavirus in general? The Wall Street Journal reported that “the State Department has assessed that Russia, China and Iran are mounting increasingly intense and coordinated disinformation campaigns” against the United States relating to COVID-19.
One site that has been posting on the alleged hack, Counter Globalist, shared a list of news stories about Gates that contain information driving some of the conspiracy theories. Among them: A press release the Gates Foundation sent out in 2010 that announced “a collaboration to increase coordination across the international vaccine community and create a Global Vaccine Action Plan,” with Dr. Anthony Fauci listed as a member of the Leadership Council.
Other links provided: A 2015 interview Gates gave with a German newspaper calling for “a kind of global government” and a 2017 Politico story that reported that Gates, over the previous decade, had “become the World Health Organization’s second biggest donor, second only to the United States and just above the United Kingdom.”
In 2019, according to the Center for Health Security, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “hosted Event 201, a high-level pandemic exercise on October 18, 2019, in New York, NY. The exercise illustrated areas where public/private partnerships will be necessary during the response to a severe pandemic in order to diminish large-scale economic and societal consequences.”
Factcheck.org explained, though, that this exercise didn’t deal with COVID-19. “To be clear, the Center for Health Security and partners did not make a prediction during our tabletop exercise. For the scenario, we modeled a fictional coronavirus pandemic, but we explicitly stated that it was not a prediction,” the Center said in a statement to that site. “Instead, the exercise served to highlight preparedness and response challenges that would likely arise in a very severe pandemic. We are not now predicting that the nCoV-2019 outbreak will kill 65 million people. Although our tabletop exercise included a mock novel coronavirus, the inputs we used for modeling the potential impact of that fictional virus are not similar to nCoV-2019.” Although the exercise dealt with a fictional coronavirus starting in Brazil, Factcheck.org noted that there are many coronaviruses in the world, not just COVID-19. This event has been used by some conspiracy theorists to allege that Gates predicted COVID-19 and millions of deaths.
A page on the Gates Foundation’s website says, “This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With a pandemic bringing painful human, social, and economic costs, it’s not a time for celebration. But it does feel that the investments we’ve made, expertise we’ve built, and experience we’ve gained over the last two decades has prepared us for this moment.”
Mark Suzman, chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the New York Times that it was “distressing that there are people spreading misinformation when we should all be looking for ways to collaborate and save lives.”