Note to people arriving here via a search engine: the story you’re investigating is a HOAX. See this post.
Longtime Gates of Vienna readers will recall that last April this blog was blessed with a real surge of traffic due to a rumor in the Muslim world that Bill Gates had converted to Islam. It turned out to be an urban legend which began as a hoax on a Kuwaiti website, but it proved to be The Meme That Would Not Die. A steady trickle of searches has arrived here looking for the story in the intervening months, since we come up in the #2 and #3 spots for it in Google searches.
I wrote at length about the phenomenon last July. Back then I promised to report back in a few months with an update.
Well, as it turns out, in the last few days the “Bill Gates Islam” search has enjoyed a comeback. Especially last night — for a while, about 15% of our hits were coming from various searches for it. Given the comparative traffic, that’s almost as large an avalanche as the one last April.
So if anybody knows what’s going on, please leave a comment or email me. Is it a new television spot on Al-Jazeera? An Arabic-language radio program about the story? I’m dying to find out…
I can’t Google up anything new, on web pages, the press or blogs. All the references seem to go back to last April when there was that flush of interest, and fomr there back to the original hoax in 2003.
Ironically, in early December 2005, Gates apparenlty visited Bangladesh to provide AIDS relief, was greeted with a giant inflated condom, and spoke a few quotes (translated, I assume) from Hindu sutras. This caused a little storm among Muslim bloggers esp. in Pakistan, and even a mini-rumor that Gates had converted to Hinduism. I don’t know if that could have reanimated the older rumor. I’m sure there are loads of profs and grad students trying to build tools to study the propagation of Internet rumors right now.
Correction – the Gates-hinduism stuff was not bloggers, just a few newsgroup posters. Hard to believe it had any impact. Still, haven’t found anything recent about Gates-Islam. In fact, the most popular link for this search is of course GOV.