Bill Gates on Musk, Twitter and the conspiracy theorists who yell at him in public

In an interview in BBC Radio 4 Today ProgramBill Gates has spoken on a number of topics, including the various conspiracies about him, lies on the internet, and Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover Proposal, all of which have at least some degree of crossover. Gates was recently on a round of interviews to promote his new book, How to prevent the next pandemic.

Gates was once the richest person in the world: now he’s not, largely because he left the business world in 2008 to focus on philanthropy. The richest person in the world right now is the flighty Elon Musk who, when not trying to dominate Twitter, posts youthful insults about Gates.

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Musk’s problem with Gates is that the latter has taken a short position against Tesla, essentially betting that the electric car maker is overvalued. A text exchange between the two was leaked to The New York Times, in which Musk asks Gates if he has a half-billion short position against Tesla, and Gates replies, “Sorry to say I didn’t close.”

Musk later confirmed the texts were authentic in a reply to the tweet below: “Yeah, but I didn’t leak it to the NYT. They must have gotten it through friends of friends. I heard from several people at TED that Gates still had half a billion least against Tesla, which is why I asked him, so it’s not exactly top secret.”

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Responding to a question about Musk’s more childish moments, Gates told the BBC: “There’s no need for him to be nice to me.” Asked specifically about the short position that contributes to environmental damage, which is Musk’s claim, Gates added: “This has nothing to do with climate change. I have ways to diversify. The popularity of electric cars will lead to more competition for sell those cars. So there’s a difference between electric cars being adopted and companies becoming infinitely valuable.”

Gates was then asked about Musk’s offer to buy Twitter, in the context of Musk’s hardline free speech stance and the misinformation that can spread on those platforms.

“Well, whether it’s through laws or technical innovation, we’d be better off if these totally wrong things that are exciting to click on, like there’s an evil genius behind it all, if we had less of it,” Gates said. “You know, Elon, I think it’s possible that Twitter could be worse. But it could also be better… at the forefront of this. So I have a wait-and-see attitude.”

(Image credit: Bloomberg via Getty)

The chat on social media led to discussion of the various conspiracy theories about Gates that have spread like wildfire on these platforms, particularly since the start of the pandemic. Gates has long championed vaccination as “the magic health intervention tool” and the ultimate solution for certain diseases, and has invested billions in its research and distribution.

No one is above scrutiny and there are, of course, perfectly reasonable criticism of how the Gates Foundation operates. But there are also the most absurd claims about how he wants to use it to ‘control’ and ‘track’ people delivering microchips or something via the many large vaccine programs he is involved with.

“In a way, you almost have to laugh because it’s so crazy,” says Gates. “I mean, do I really want to track people? You know, I spend billions on vaccines, I don’t make money on vaccines, vaccines save lives that don’t cause death.”

He also mentions being yelled at in the street. “I went out in public, [and] some people yell at me that I’m tracking them,” Gates said. “And that, that’s a horrible thing. I still have a sense of humor about it, but the degree to which these crazy theories make people not want to get vaccinated or wear masks…

It’s an undeniable point. And it’s one that these social media platforms will never be able to hide, regardless of who owns them.

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