Internet conspiracy theorists are peddling wild theories that cybersecurity guru John McAfee owned a unit in the Miami condo complex which collapsed on Thursday that held a large amount of data on “government corruption.”
Fact-checkers quickly disproved the veracity of any of these claims, but that has not hampered the fervor of the conspirators spreading the false information.
The conspiracy theory is rooted in a tweet that was allegedly sent from McAfee’s Twitter where he claims he has “31TB of files…on hard drives in my condo near 88th Street and Collins Avenue just north of Miami Beach.”
There is currently no such tweet on his account. Outlets have been unable to verify the tweet’s authenticity. It is possible that the tweet could have been deleted, or that the it is a complete fabrication.
Another version of the tweet being circulated includes a picture of the Miami condo building and a screenshot of the location on Google Maps. The two separate versions of the tweet have led to further speculation the the tweet itself was forged to support the baseless theory.
There were no records of McAfee owning a condo in the since-collapsed Champlain Towers according to the Daily Mail, and it would seem unwise for him to share the location of such sensitive information.
The antivirus giant was involved in several conspiracies over the years, including many he forged on his own. He also ran for president in 2020 as a libertarian candidate, but was arrested in October 2020 on U.S. tax evasion charges.
McAfee, 75, was found dead in his prison cell outside Barcelona on Wednesday in an apparent suicide by hanging. Prior to his death, a Spanish court had authorized his extradition to the U.S.
The untimely death of McAfee ignited the slew of internet conspiracy theorists who have since tried to link him to QAnon, Hillary Clinton, and Jeffrey Epstein.
Though the tweet about the location of 31TB of data on the government may be a hoax, McAfee tweeted from Cuba on June 9, 2019 : “I’ve collected files on corruption in governments. For the first time, I’m naming names and specifics. I’ll begin with a corrupt CIA agent and two Bahamian officials. Coming today. If I’m arrested or disappear, 31+ terrabytes of incriminating data will be released to the press.”
In February 2019, McAfee told Jena Friedman of Adult Swim in an interview that he had hacked the government’s computer grid in Belize in 2012 and recorded massive amounts of data.
“When I went on the run in Belize I had friends in the US Embassy in Belize, I knew I was coming down, I’m not stupid. I had arranged with the head of security I was going to come in,” McAfee told Friedman, “He says, ‘Sir, we have it from the highest authority we are not to allow you into the US embassy.’ Who was the highest authority in the state department? Hillary Clinton. I’m an American Citizen with a f***ing American passport. I’m sorry, I’m not wanted in America. I’ve got no crimes in America. For a month and a half I was on the run. The reason that the government wanted to collect me was that after they had raided my property in 2012 in the jungle, shot my dog, abused me, destroyed over a half million dollars of my property over a bogus charge, I was p*ssed off.” McAfee stated.
“And so I donated to many secretaries within the government laptop computers, really nice ones, that were preloaded with viral spyware. Within a week the entire government computer system was under my control. I was watching, monitoring this thing. I was looking for information that they set me up for this raid. I didn’t find it. I did find out that the minister of national defense was the largest drug trafficker in all of Central America and the minister of immigration the largest human trafficker.” McAfee claimed in the interview.
McAfee was wanted in Belize for questioning regarding the murder of his neighbor, Gregory Faull, an American ex-pat.
In 2012, McAfee told Wired Magazine that he refused to answer police questions because he was afraid they would kill him.
That same year, the prime minister of Belize said McAfee was “extremely paranoid, even bonkers”.
One misinformation expert lent his opinion on Twitter as to why the McAfee conspiracy was seeing so much online attention:
There is zero evidence McAfee ever tweeted this, but adding a tiny bit of credibility is a tweet from two years ago where he mentions having 31TB of files. 2/ pic.twitter.com/V1ByJ3S6pS
— John C. Silva, NBCT (@MrSilva) June 25, 2021
Unfortunately, like most conspiracy theories, this one will likely be traded among online theorists who have broken with reality while they try to add stock to an already invalidated story.
The majority of Americans, however, will continue to follow the very real tragedy in Miami and hope for survivors as first responders work overtime to sort through the rubble that remains.