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A nxieties over the growing coronavirus pandemic are making people increasingly susceptible to misinformation, with conspiracy theories linking 5G wireless technology to COVID gaining traction in recent weeks. The conspiracy has been spread by celebrities, including Woody Harrelson and John Cusack, as well as lesser known influencers and online trolls.
The unfounded conspiracy theories reportedly began when a Belgian doctor speculated to a national newspaper about 5G masts in Wuhan, China, where the new coronavirus originated.
Despite the article being removed after a few hours because the comments were baseless, the narrative was picked up by conspiratorial Internet personalities and has spread across the Internet as the coronavirus fans anxieties around the world. The original 5G conspiracies, which existed in fringe areas of the Internet before the COVID outbreak, focused on the idea that the new phone masts required by the technology are somehow causing health problems that are being concealed by governments.
When the coronavirus began to spread around the world in January, Cassam says, conspiracy theorists seized on the uncertainties surrounding the virus to spread the baseless theory to wider audiences searching for information about COVID People were saying the same about 4G, just without coronavirus. But 5G conspiracy theories have spread rapidly, making them far more influential than those surrounding 4G — largely thanks to their piggybacking on coronavirus, which has driven unprecedented online traffic for both reputable and disreputable news organizations.
From their genesis in an obscure corner of the internet, the theories spread onto mainstream social networks like Facebook and YouTube, where they were picked up by prominent celebrities including Harrelson, Cusack and British television personality Amanda Holden, increasing their reach. Some researchers have also said the theories were boosted by state-backed inauthentic activity — in other words, fake accounts masquerading as real people — though no perpetrator has yet been identified.Fact-checker Full Fact busts coronavirus conspiracy theories - LBC
However, the state-funded Russian television station RT has been spreading 5G conspiracy theories since at leastperhaps to slow the spread of the technology in the West and allow Russia to catch up, according to the New York Times.
Tech companies are now moving to crack down on 5G conspiracy theories, following pressure from governments — especially the U. The companies are already taking matters into their own hands, with many issuing new policies related to COVID misinformation.
Facebook has made a similar commitment. Cassam, who has studied conspiracy theories for years, says governments leaning on tech companies to remove 5G misinformation could feed into conspiracy narratives. Nevertheless, the alternative is leaving misinformation to spread online to potentially millions of people.
5G Conspiracy Theories Prosper During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Deplatforming, while occasionally controversial, tends to work. After YouTube, Facebook and Twitter banned well-known conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, for example, he moved to less popular sites where he was accepted, but where his reach was limitedlargely, only to the people who actively sought him out. Write to Billy Perrigo at billy. A fire-damaged telecom tower, reported in local media as being a 5G network mast, in Birmingham, U. By Billy Perrigo. Related Stories. The Coronavirus Brief.
None of the conspiracy theories that try to link 5G and the coronavirus even make sense. Some of these theories suggest that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through 5G or that 5G suppresses the immune system. Both are untrue. Much like 4G or 3G before it, the radio waves used in 5G are low frequency and non-ionizing radiation. These are on the opposite end of the electromagnetic spectrum to ionizing radiation sources like X-rays, gamma rays, and ultraviolet rays.
The novel coronavirus spreads from one person to another, typically through tiny droplets of saliva produced when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or breathes. The only types of viruses you can transmit via radio waves are ones that affect computers, not humans. Iran has only just reportedly finalized its regulations on 5G, with plans to roll out the technology later this year. The broader 5G fears have largely been addressed by regulators, scientists, and independent groups.
While some implementations of 5G use millimeter-wave mmWave band transmissions, a higher frequency of radio waves than 4G or 3G, regulators in the UK have recorded 5G electromagnetic radiation levels well below international guidelines.
A lot of these coronavirus 5G conspiracy theories have originated from active disinformation campaigns. A New York Times report from last year warned that Russian campaigns were actively exploiting 5G health fears. After the spate of cell tower attacks, UK mobile operators are calling on members of the public not to spread the false claims.
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Loading comments Share this story Twitter Facebook.As the U. While there is scientific consensus around the basic medical realities of COVID, researchers are still filling in the gaps on a virus that no one knew existed five months ago. According to Yonderan AI company that monitors online conversations including disinformation, conspiracies that would normally remain in fringe groups are traveling to the mainstream faster during the epidemic.
While 5G claims about the coronavirus are new, 5G conspiracies are not. The seed of the false 5G coronavirus claim may have been planted in a late January print interview with a Belgian doctor who suggested that 5G technology poses health dangers and might be linked to the virus, according to reporting from Wired.
Not long after the interview, Dutch-speaking anti-5G conspiracy theorists picked up on the theory and it spread through Facebook pages and YouTube channels already trafficking in other 5G conspiracies. Somewhere along the way, people started burning down mobile phone towers in the U. This week, the conspiracy went mainstream, getting traction among a pocket of credulous celebrities, including actors John Cusack and Woody Harrelsonwho amplified the false 5G claims to their large followings on Twitter and Instagram, respectively.
A quick Twitter search reveals plenty of variations on the conspiracy still circulating. In the past, 5G misinformation has had plenty of help.
The conspiracy linking 5G to coronavirus just will not die
By last May, RT America had aired seven different programs focused on unsubstantiated claims around 5G, including a report that 5G towers could cause nosebleeds, learning disabilities and even cancer in children. In previous research on 5G-related conspiracies, social analytics company Graphika found that the majority of the online conversation around 5G focused on its health effects.
Accounts sharing those kinds of conspiracies overlapped with accounts pushing anti-vaccine, flat Earth and chemtrail misinformation. From the earliest moments of the crisis, fake cures and preventative treatments offered scammers an opportunity to cash in.
And even after social media companies announced aggressive policies cracking down on potentially deadly health misinformation, scams and conspiracies can still surface in AI blindspots. With their human moderators sent homeYouTube and other social platforms are relying on AI now more than ever. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all banned Infowars founder and prominent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from their platforms back inbut on his own site, Jones is peddling false claims that products he sells can be used to prevent or treat COVID The claims are so dangerous that the FDA even stepped in this weekissuing a warning letter to Jones telling him to cease the sale of those products.
As it becomes clear that the disruptions to everyday life necessitated by the novel coronavirus are likely to be with us for some timecoronavirus conspiracies and scams are likely to stick around too.
A vaccine will eventually inoculate human populations against the devastating virus, but if history is any indication, even that is likely to be the fodder for online conspiracists.A bizarre conspiracy linking 5G and coronavirus has taken hold in the UK and being peddled by conspiracy theorists and celebrities on social media. The theory runs roughly like this: the rollout of faster 5G internet is either causing or acclerating the spread of the coronavirus. It's hard to pinpoint the source of the theory, and BI first heard a variant of the rumor in early March, but it appears to have picked up steam during the first week of April.
The conspiracy theory and its various offshoots are baseless but have led to real-world harm, with several arson attacks thought to have been perpetrated on 5G masts around the country. Full Fact's first debunking of the theory hinged on a Facebook post which claimed Wuhan in China — where the coronavirus outbreak first began — is also where 5G began to roll out. The post rested on the pre-existing conspiracy theory that 5G suppresses people's immune systems.
It was posted to an anti-5G Facebook group, and was subsequently marked by Facebook as misinformation. According to Facebook, the post had just over shares.
There is no evidence to suggest that Wuhan was the very first Chinese city to start building out 5G, but rather multiple reports found by Full Fact said it was among multiple cities selected to pilot the technology. Radiowaves are found at the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum, and as such produce non-ionizing radiation, meaning they do not damage the DNA in cell tissue. According to Full Fact, this post claimed that coronavirus is a fiction invented to cover up the physical damage being done by 5G.
It also claimed that the coronavirus was invented by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates to control the world by creating a vaccine for it.
Gates has said he is funding vaccine candidates. The post has now been removed from Facebook, but according to Full Fact, it was shared thousands of times. As Full Fact points out in a more recent dismantling of the conspiracy theory, the coronavirus outbreak has had a profound impact on countries with no 5G coverage, such as Iran.
The article was originally headlined "Coronavirus: Fears 5G wifi networks could be acting as 'accelerator' for disease," but was subsequently changed to "Coronavirus: Activists in bizarre claim 5G could be acting as 'accelerator' for disease.
The text is an excerpt from an article by Martin Pall, a retired professor from Washington State University, who has also pushed a theory that Wi-Fi is harmful to human health. Phone masts in Birmingham, Liverpooland Belfast were damaged in arson attacks in early April. Not all the masts are necessarily 5G towers.
Mobile telecoms expert Peter Clarke discovered a Facebook group urging people to burn 5G towers, and reported it. The Verge reports that while Facebook was slow to act, the page has now been removed. The video was taken by a woman who approaches two engineers laying fiber-optic 5G cables, falsely claiming that they are not key workers and that 5G "kills people.
They said that in some cases abuse of engineers had hindered "essential network maintenance" from taking place.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove called the theory "dangerous nonsense," and the national medical director of NHS England Stephen Powis condemned it in even stronger terms. But in particular those are also the phone networks that are used by our emergency services and our health workers," he added. Under our existing policies against harmful misinformation, we are starting to remove false claims which link COVID to 5G technology and could lead to physical harm.
We will continue to work closely with governments and other tech companies to remove harmful misinformation and have partnered with health authorities like the WHO and NHS to connect people to the latest official guidance.
Meanwhile YouTube said it will remove videos which link 5G and the coronavirus.Do these theories have any validity behind them? And where did they come from in the first place? We did some digging to debunk even the wildest conspiracy theory surrounding 5G.
For starters, 5G, which is technically just the 5th-generation of wireless technology, can span a range of frequencies. There are low-band radio frequencies, which offer a relatively slow internet connection but can travel longer distances.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are high-band frequencies, or millimeter-wave frequencies. Mid-band frequencies, as you would expect, offer medium-speed connections at medium distances.
Both the rollout of 5G and the first cases of coronavirus supposedly happened at the same time in latethe theory claims. Putting aside the fact that 5G actually started rolling out inthis theory stems from linking the fact that the coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China.
China also recently deployed one of the largest 5G networks in the world. There are a number of other ways in which this conspiracy theory is wrong. For starters, while China did recently start launching its 5G network, 5G first started rolling out in South Korea and parts of the U.
In other words, if coronavirus was caused by 5G, then we would have seen the virus in other parts of the world first. Research has shown coronavirus spreads through droplets generated when someone sneezes or coughs. These droplets can exist on surfaces for a matter of hours, and can even hang in the air for up to a few minutes after someone sneezes. Radio waves, however, are a form of electromagnetic wave. No droplets involved. Highly populated areas, where people are closer to each other, also happen to make the spread of a virus easier.
At extremely high frequencies, electromagnetic waves could potentially cause health issues. A number of scientific studies have been conducted on the link between non-ionizing waves — which are used for TV transmissions, and yes, 5G — and human health. Some organizations suggest that more research needs to be conducted, but at this point in time there is no reliable evidence proving 5G waves can impact the human immune system.
Head to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or World Health Organization websites for real advice on how to stop the spread of coronavirus. Even the highest of 5G waves are far below the boundaries between ionizing and non-ionizing waves. Well, no. A post has made the rounds on social media linking the deaths of hundreds of birds in The Hague with 5G tests.
While it is true that a series of mysterious bird deaths was reported, no 5G tests were being conducted nearby at the time, Snopes reported. I wish. If 5G could control the weather, we could have always sunny days.
Or, we could limit the impact of climate change. Soon after completing the project, however, the government shut down the facility and transferred its ownership to the University of Alaska. But what does that have to do with 5G? For some, however, this theory has other components to it — namely that 5G is used to control tiny robots that are injected into the body through vaccines. Coronavirus conspiracy theories and myths debunked 1 day ago.CNN As the spread of the coronavirus is proving difficult to contain, so too is the misinformation surrounding it.
Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. Telecommunications workers are seen working on a mobile cell tower in Sydney on Wednesday, March One of the most recent, baseless conspiracy theories surrounding the virus is that 5G networks -- the next generation of wireless technology that's steadily being rolled out around the world -- are fueling the global coronavirus pandemic.
They are not. Unfounded claims about a supposed link between 5G and Covid began circulating on the fringes of the internet, where New Agers and QAnon followers perpetuated the hoax that global elites were using 5G to spread the virus.
Unsophisticated algorithms amplified those voices and ushered unsubstantiated theories into the mainstream.
Officials in the United Kingdom have expressed concerns that recent attacks on cell phone towers were motivated by false conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, actor Woody Harrelson and singer M. There's no evidence to support the theory that 5G networks cause Covid or contribute to its spread.
But still, it refuses to die. Here's what to know about 5G networks, how these false theories came about and why they don't hold up. There are several theories linking 5G and Covid One simply suggests that 5G networks cause Covid, or symptoms of the infection. Another more insidious one is that 5G networks emit radiation that weakens the immune system, making people more susceptible to infection. The big differences between 4G and 5G.
The big differences between 4G and 5G are faster speeds, higher bandwidth and lower lag time in communications between devices and servers. Carriers building superfast 5G networks have to install tons of small cell sites to light poles, walls or towers, often in close proximity to each other. So far, the networks have mostly been deployed city by city. Conspiracy theorists were quick to link the two, ignoring the ever-relevant adage: Correlation does not imply causation. People on the internet shared two maps of the United States suggesting areas that had been hit hardest by Covid were also places where 5G networks had been installed.
Another thing those areas have in common? They're metropolitan areas: large population centers that are more vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus and are more likely to adopt 5G networks earlier. There are other reasons those suggestions don't hold up. Although Iran has not rolled out 5G, it's one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. Upgrades to wireless infrastructure have been falsely linked to diseases beforeand the same has happened this time around with the coronavirus.
Research shows that radiofrequency RF waves given off by cell phones do not have enough energy to damage DNA directly or heat body tissues -- their energy levels are lower even than technologies such as microwave ovens and televisions. What's more, 5G signals are actually worse at penetrating objects than 4G signals, which is why 5G networks require many more, smaller cell sites built close together.
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection ICNIRP is a body of independent scientific experts that considers how exposure to electromagnetic fields used by cell phones and other devices affects people's health. The organization maintains that there is no link between 5G and the coronavirus. If that would be the case, we would have seen effects on the scale and severity of infectious diseases already decades ago.
And we don't. The only proven effect is heating of parts of the body, but the exposure from mobile devices is so low that this wouldn't happen through cell phone use. Social media and internet platforms have started taking steps to limit the spread of coronavirus misinformation, though some have been slow to act.
YouTube videos that drew connections between 5G networks and the coronavirus have racked up hundreds of thousands of views. But the company initially said such videos were not in direct violation of its policies before moving to ban them Tuesday.This article is republished here with permission from The Conversation.
This content is shared here because the topic may interest Snopes readers; it does not, however, represent the work of Snopes fact-checkers or editors. As the coronavirus pandemic has gathered momentum, so too have explanations for how the outbreak started and what is causing its spread. Among these explanations is a theory that the recent rollout of 5G technology is to blame. Many countries are witnessing increased numbers of groups warning others about the dangers of 5G.
In the UKAustralia and the USactivists believe that 5G is the real cause of the pandemic, and that disrupting the 5G network is necessary to halt the spread of the virus.
At the extreme end of these groups are those who warn that COVID is a hoax, a cover-story for more evil plans, of which 5G is a crucial part. Why do people believe conspiracy theories, and what accounts for the ongoing surge in their popularity? At the root of these beliefs is a contemporary spirit of distrust towards governments and health organisations.
Moreover, people are particularly drawn to these alternative explanations during times of crisis. They are often part of a wider movement of people that consider themselves to be free thinkers who are courageous enough to seek the truth, and to speak up. They act like heroic detectivesrevealing what they see as powerful groups operating in secrecy to achieve malevolent outcomes.
Most conspiracy theories view these powerful groups as working in the shadowsinaccessible and behind the scenes.
But the 5G-coronavirus theory departs from this template in one crucial way: the source of evil is visible and accessible to anyone who believes in these ideas. Unlike shadowy cabals and occult forces, the 5G-coronavirus conspiracy can be challenged directly. The 5G network is composed of material infrastructures that are easy to identify and access. For those who believe they know the truth, acts of vandalism against phone masts and antennas represent the possibility to exert some control over troubling events.
People want to simplify and make sense of complex and unprecedented situations. As a means to understand this pandemic, there exist both official and conspiracy theories. The official truth is simple: COVID was transferred to humans from animals, similar to previous coronavirus outbreaks. It is primarily spread through droplets generated when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The popularity of theories that link 5G to the outbreak, however, expose the levels of distrust towards scientific claims, truth and expert explanations of events.
Although anti-5G theories have been around for some time, these explanations are currently winning new supporters. This is in part due to a lack of confidence in governments, many of which have struggled to manage this crisis, and now face questions as to whether they acted too early or too late. More concerning is how right-wing populism thrives in and intensifies this climate of distrust.
Donald Trump, Matteo Salvini, Jair Bolsonaro and Nigel Farage garner support by framing their struggle as one of the good leader against bad institutions. The implications of this are troubling. Distinctions between scientific truths and conspiracy theories have become blurred at the highest levels of government.
Unproven solutions to control diseases are favoured over evidence-based interventions. Moreover, there is a growing resistance to vaccination in countries where political populism is on the rise. Policy interventions designed to solve problems are instead seen as part of the problem. These considerations become even more important at a time when lockdown measures have led to people spending increased time on social media.