In each edition of web_crawlr we have exclusive original content every day. On Mondays our Tech Reporter Mikael Thalen debunks the most wild conspiracy theories swirling around the web in his “One Dumb Conspiracy” column. If you want to read columns like this before everyone else, subscribe to web_crawlr to get your daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.
Conspiracy theorists accused tech giant Microsoft of planning to remotely disable computers found to be spreading misinformation online.
But tell your uncle not to worry––he can still ramble on Facebook about QAnon without having his computer shut down by the tech overlords.
The allegation first spread across X this month after Dr. Anastasia Maria Loupis, a notorious conspiracy theorist with more than 1 million followers, shared a screenshot of a purported news article.
“Microsoft has announced plans to disable the computers of people who share ‘non-mainstream’ content online, in an attempt to combat so-called ‘misinformation’ in the run-up to the 2024 election,” Loupis wrote.
The post has since been viewed more than 1.1 million times and spurred outrage among users on X.
Some users vowed to boycott the company’s operating system and products.
“Thus begins a mass migration away from Microsoft & ALL ITS PLATFORMS,” one user said.
“Microsoft will be silencing people who share opposite views to them,” another added. “That’s [an] attack on freedom of speech online!”
Others took aim at Microsoft founder Bill Gates, despite the fact that the billionaire left the company’s board in 2020. Conspiracy theorists always seem to think Gates is involved in something nefarious.
“Brought to you by the same villain that told you vaccines were safe and effective and had people in mass hysteria,” one user said of Gates. “This man is an enemy of the people and is of Satan.”
As it turns out, the claim is fake and came from a fake news site that somehow, despite being debunked hundreds of times in recent years, continues to fool conspiracy theorists online.
The site, known as NewsPunch, regularly takes actual news and interjects misinformation regarding viral topics among the conspiracy movement.
In this case, NewsPunch took details from a recent interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in which he discussed how to reduce the unintended consequences of AI, primarily the spread of misinformation. At no point did Nadella mention anything about computers being remotely disabled.
While Loupis’s post on X has since been hit with a Community Note, it remains unclear whether it will do any good given how far the false claim has traveled.
Regardless, rest assured that a secret AI-powered Bill Gates supercomputer won’t be shutting off your computer for stumbling across misinformation any time soon.
Why it matters
The fabricated article from NewsPunch shows how easily conspiracy theorists can be taken advantage of when their biggest fears are preyed upon by misinformation artists.