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No, US president Trump has not cancelled ID2020 – and digital identity project not run by Bill Gates

Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of Africa Check’s funders, providing 11% of our income in 2019.

US president Donald Trump has “cancelled” a “Bill Gates project known as ID2020”, claims a message widely shared on Facebook in Nigeria. Some versions have more than 100,000 views.

The lengthy message, circulating on the platform since 28 May 2020, also mentions several disproven Covid-19 conspiracy theories.

What is ID2020? Is it a project run or funded by tech billionaire Bill Gates? And what has Trump said about it?

Non-profit fund for digital identity projects

Digital identity, or “digital ID”, is a broad term for any digital way of proving a person’s identity. ID2020 is a non-profit organisation that funds projects “to ensure that good digital ID is available, ethical, and fit-for-purpose for all users”.

ID2020 explains that digital ID comes in many forms, from “e-passports to digital wallets, online banking to social media accounts”. The non-profit promotes “ethical, privacy-protecting approaches to digital ID”.

Google Trends data reveals that, as of 2 June 2020, the highest search interest for “ID2020” was in African countries. Nine of the 10 countries with the most interest in the term were African.

Gates does not run ID2020 or fund it directly. Some – but not all – of the organisation’s partners have received Gates funding. One is Microsoft, the corporation Gates founded. Other ID2020 partners, such as the vaccination program Gavi, are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation lists all organisations that have received grants on its website.

ID2020 has not been “cancelled” or shut down by Trump. It is still active. Groups and individuals can still request support from ID2020. Trump does not appear to have publicly mentioned it. He has not tweeted about the organisation, and it does not appear in any of Trump’s recent executive orders and proclamations.

The organisation has also been caught up in an internet hoax that claims Gates plans to use vaccines, particularly the so far nonexistent Covid-19 vaccine, to inject microchips into people. The hoax has been fact-checked multiple times. Reuters has debunked it twice.

In April the organisation posted on Twitter a New Humanitarian article investigating conspiracy theories about ID2020 and Covid-19. It tweeted: “Conspiracy theories and false accusations about #ID2020's work have obscured our message and, ultimately, led to death threats against our staff. We appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight.”

The many other claims in the widely shared Facebook message have been fact-checked before, and found to be false.

‘False, misleading or unsupported’

On 22 May, looked into an earlier version of the message and found that its six claims (the later version has 10) were mostly “false, misleading or unsupported”.

For example, Trump has not cancelled the HR 6666 bill, itself the subject of false claims. And the bill does not appear to be “the basis for” a Covid-19 testing scheme funded by Gates. The programme has been halted awaiting formal approval, but was not permanently cancelled.

And Trump’s executive order on regulatory relief to support economic recovery did not allow him to sue governors who did not lift Covid-19 prevention measures in their states. Legal experts even said Trump did not have the authority to overrule actions taken by individual states. 

Trump has not “stopped 5G rollout” in the US. His administration has acted to prevent the Chinese company Huawei and other manufacturers from producing hardware for use in 5G networks, also a subject of disinformation that Africa Check has investigated. Trump has in fact expressed eagerness for the roll out of 5G technology.

The message plays on conspiracy theories connected to Bill Gates, which have flourished on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic. Africa Check has investigated several claims that link Gates to Covid-19. – Keegan Leech


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