“FBI Arrests Bill Gate For Biological Terrorism,” reads the headline of a 13 May 2020 article on the Nigerian blog Southern Dailies.
“Billionaire founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates (64) has been arrested by the FBI today on charges of biological terrorism after it was revealed he created the coronavirus so that he could control us because he’s always had an interest in that kind of thing,” the article says.
It shows what seems to be a badly photoshopped photo of billionaire US philanthropist Bill Gates in handcuffs, being escorted by US Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.
Gates target of coronavirus disinformation
After a misleading claim that Bill Gates predicted the new coronavirus in 2015 (he did warn of the dangers of a pandemic, but not Covid-19 specifically), a conspiracy theory has put Gates at the centre of the Covid-19 outbreak.
According to the New York Times, the notion seems to have been spread by members of the “bizarre” Qanon conspiracy theory group. It has come to include unsubstantiated claims that Gates is somehow responsible for creating or spreading the virus.
In the past few months more and more false information about Gates and his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has circulated online.
This claim is also false.
Copy of satirical story
The Southern Dailies report is a word for word copy of a story on the Betoota Advocate, a satirical Australian website, and uses the same photo.
Satire may be defined as “the use of humour or exaggeration in order to show how foolish or wicked some people’s behaviour or ideas are”. Satire can’t be fact-checked, because it isn’t presented as fact.
But the Southern Dailies republished the Betoota Advocate story as fact. When satire is presented as real news, it becomes disinformation.
The photo actually shows mafia member Vincent Asaro, and was taken in 2014. Gates’s face has been photoshopped over Asaro’s.
The FBI has not announced that Gates has been arrested. The news of such a high-profile arrest would have made international headlines. It hasn’t. – Keegan Leech
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
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Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.Publishers guide
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.