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Posts falsely claim Bill Gates withdrew from Davos forum

January 18, 2023 GMT
From left: The President of the World Economy Forum Borge Brende, US Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., and  Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., attend a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Social media users have falsely claimed that Bill Gates abruptly withdrew from the 2023 event in Davos. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
From left: The President of the World Economy Forum Borge Brende, US Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., and  Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., attend a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. Social media users have falsely claimed that Bill Gates abruptly withdrew from the 2023 event in Davos. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

CLAIM: Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates abruptly pulled out of the 2023 World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Gates was never confirmed to attend this year’s forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. A spokesperson for the World Economic Forum also confirmed that the claim is false.

THE FACTS: As the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos opened this week, claims spread widely across social media platforms that high-profile people including Gates were suddenly pulling out of the event, suggesting it was a sign that something was amiss.

“EXCLUSIVE: Bill Gates has also pulled out of the WEF23 meeting in Davos,” one Twitter user wrote Monday in a post that received more than 10,000 likes. “BREAKING: Bill Gates did not show up to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos,” another user wrote on Telegram.

But Gates was never slated to attend this year’s meeting in Davos, according to a statement provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“This claim is false,” the statement reads. “Bill was never confirmed to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2023.”

There is no other evidence to suggest that Gates was set to appear at this year’s conference as he did in 2022. He does not appear on the online program for the 2023 event, and was not featured in a list of prominent people set to participate in the meeting that was released by the WEF in November.

Other social media posts also falsely claimed that Klaus Schwab, chairman of the World Economic Forum, is not attending. But he can be seen speaking at the event this week in videos and in Associated Press photographs.

Emily Poyser, a spokesperson for the World Economic Forum, confirmed in an email to the AP that the claims that both Schwab and Gates withdrew from the 2023 event are false.

Some users made these false claims while noting that billionaire investor George Soros withdrew from the event.

“WEF: what’s up? George Soros, Klaus Schwab, Bill Gates have CANCELED at the last minute their participation at the WEF meeting at Davos,” read one tweet.

It is actually true that Soros pulled out, though it was not as last-minute as many posts suggested — he announced in a tweet on Jan. 10 that he would be unable to attend the event due to an “unavoidable scheduling conflict.”

The forum has become a lightning rod for online conspiracy theories in recent years, including claims that leaders want populations to eat insects instead of meat in the name of saving the environment, the AP reported.

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This story has been updated to include comment from a World Economic Forum spokesperson.

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Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp in New York contributed to this report.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.