During the Wall Street Journal CEO Summit on Wednesday, Gates asked Elon Musk, “How does he feel about something? [on Twitter] that says ‘vaccines kill people’ or that ‘Bill Gates follows people?'”
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Bill Gates has warned that Elon Musk could make Twitter “worse” after Tesla’s CEO promised to buy the social media company for $44 billion.
Gates said Wednesday at the Wall Street Journal CEO Summit that it’s unclear how Musk will change Twitter once he takes ownership, while also expressing concerns about the spread of misinformation on social media platforms.
The Microsoft co-founder admitted Musk’s track record with other companies is impressive, calling his time at the helm of Tesla and SpaceX “baffling.” Gates said he believed Musk would have done the right thing by putting together a great team of engineers at those companies.
“I doubt a bit that will happen this time, but we have to have an open mind and never underestimate Elon,” he said.
The tech billionaire’s comments come after Musk accused him of shorting Tesla stock last month. Musk also tweeted a crude joke about Gates that CNBC has decided not to print. Gates said the insults don’t bother him.
Gates, who in recent years has been replaced by Musk as the world’s richest person, went on to question Musk’s goal with Twitter and whether his pursuit of promoting free speech makes sense.
“What does he think of something? [on Twitter] that says ‘vaccines kill people’ or that ‘Bill Gates follows people?’ Gates asked.
“What are its goals for what it eventually becomes? Is that consistent with this idea of less extreme falsehoods spreading so quickly?” [and] weird conspiracy theories? Does he share that goal or not?” Gates said.
A Musk representative did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
In recent weeks, Musk has suggested a number of ways he could improve Twitter in addition to promoting free speech. He suggested late on Tuesday that he would charge companies a “small” fee to use the platform.
Misinformation about vaccines has spread like wildfire on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic, with some falsely claiming that Gates was somehow using vaccines to implant 5G chips in people so he could track their location. could follow.
“That’s so unexpected and almost so bizarre,” Gates said. “Now that I’m back in the physical world… people are coming up and screaming and protesting.”
He said it is “dangerous” when people “reject” the most important tool used to save people’s lives and he believes that those who own social media platforms have a role to play when it comes to ensuring that the truth is effectively shared.
Musk’s plan to buy Twitter has alarmed policymakers around the world.
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“If you don’t have the trusted leaders speaking out about vaccines, it’s pretty hard for the platform to counter that,” he admitted. “So I think we have a leadership problem and we have a platform problem.”
“The way you make sure those platforms are spreading the truth and not crazy stuff takes a real invention,” Gates said.
“It’s a huge problem in terms of election legitimacy or medical innovations…any kind of collective behavior,” he added.
The fact that information about drug efficacy can be disseminated quickly and cheaply should be a boon to humanity, Gates said, before calling the hydroxychloroquine saga “insane.”
“I can’t explain that,” he said. “I don’t think digital is responsible for that obsession with drugs that don’t work.”
Gates said he plans to set up a 3,000-person social media unit to disseminate accurate vaccine information in the future. He stressed that “good tidings” should be delivered by people who have faith in the community, such as political and ethnic leaders.