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Bill Gates points to social media as the reason coronavirus conspiracy theories spread so rapidly: ‘Incorrect things that are very titillating can spread very rapidly compared to the truth’

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Bill Gates points to social media as the reason coronavirus conspiracy theories spread so rapidly: 'Incorrect things that are very titillating can spread very rapidly compared to the truth'

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Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, speaks at the panel Building Human Capital: A Project for the World, during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, in Washington, Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, speaks at the panel Building Human Capital: A Project for the World, during the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings, in Washington, Saturday, April 21, 2018.

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

  • As the coronavirus pandemic has spread around the world, with millions infected and thousands dead, billionaire Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist Bill Gates has pledged a quarter billion dollars to combat the disease through his foundation.

  • Gates criticized social media giants on Tuesday for enabling the spread of coronavirus misinformation and conspiracy theories. “When you let people communicate, you have to deal with the fact that certain incorrect things that are very titillating can spread very rapidly compared to the truth,” Gates said in a CNBC interview.

  • “Social media can make that even worse,” Gates said. “The degree to which these media companies can see what’s being said on their platform, and take things that are absolutely wrong and get rid of those things or slow those things down that’s very tough.”

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Billionaire Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist Bill Gates has advocated for pandemic preparedness for years, and famously gave a TED talk in 2015 that warned of the potentially staggering death toll a worldwide pandemic could create. 

As the coronavirus pandemic has spread around the world, Gates has pledged $250 million to fight the disease and create a vaccine, and he’s emerged as a leader in the worldwide pandemic response.

Beyond dealing with the spread of the disease itself, another critical vector has emerged in the fight: Misinformation and conspiracy theories.

And it’s social media, Gates said in a new interview, that’s helping to spread both. 

“When you let people communicate, you have to deal with the fact that certain incorrect things that are very titillating can spread very rapidly compared to the truth,” Gates said in a CNBC interview. “Social media can make that even worse.”

Look no further for evidence backing up Gates’ claim that the viral spread of “Plandemic,” a documentary with dangerous misinformation about coronavirus including false claims that vaccines are ineffective, and stay-at-home orders suppress the immune system. “Plandemic” had over 8 million views by the time YouTube and Facebook removed it, and that damage is hard to undo.

“The degree to which these media companies can see what’s being said on their platform, and take things that are absolutely wrong and get rid of those things or slow those things down that’s very tough,” Gates said.

You can see the full interview from CNBC’s Squawk Box right here:

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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