TED, the annual gathering of the most pretentious people from the fields of technology, entertainment, and design, just got punk'd. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates released a swarm of mosquitos into the crowd.

Ending malaria is a particular passion of Gates's, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent millions fighting the disease. But he apparently didn't feel like TED attendees were taking the threat seriously. "Not only poor people should experience this," Gates said as he let the bugs loose on his audience, according to Facebook manager Dave Morin. (eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Twitter CEO Ev Williams confirm the report.)

A showman's way of making a point, perhaps. But it doesn't do much to undo Gates's reputation, borne out of the Microsoft antitrust investigations of the 1990s, that the man considers himself above the law. Doesn't California's Health and Safety Code have something to say about insect infestations?

(Photo by jurvetson)