5G Towers are NOT Causing the COVID-19 Coronavirus
5G is gaining notoriety around the world after a series of conspiracy theories have claimed that the technology is behind the current COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s no shortage of coronavirus related fake news stories circulating the internet right now, but it’s safe to say that 5G’s link (or lack thereof) to the pandemic is the most talked-about of them all.
SO, how did these claims gain so much traction around the world, and is there any shred of truth to it? In this article, we’ll investigate the origins of the 5G COVID-19 conspiracy theories and its impact on cases of vandalism and abuse on telecommunications towers and the engineers who work on them. We’ll also examine the scientific evidence which disproves these theories and take a look at what governments and experts around the world are doing to stop the spread of false information.
- What is 5G and is it Dangerous?
- 5G Conspiracy Theories Are Nothing New
- COVID-19 and 5G: The Perfect Conspiracy Storm
- What do the Conspiracy Theorists Believe About 5G and COVID-19?
- Celebrity’s Claims About 5G and COVID-19
- 5G Anger Sparks Arson Attacks Around the World
- What do the Leading Authorities Have to Say About the Relationship Between 5G and COVID-19?
- What Steps Have Been Taken to Stop the Spread of False Information?
- Other Misinformation Surrounding the Global Pandemic
- How can you Help to Stop the Spread of Misinformation?
- 5G is NOT causing COVID-19
What is 5G and is it Dangerous?
Fifth Generation Wireless, known as 5G, is the world’s most recent form of mobile communication technology. It provides a massive increase of available bandwidth compared with its predecessors 4G and 3G and is designed to boost both the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks exponentially. The technology enables much quicker upload and download speeds and faster and more powerful performance on our phones in general.
5G uses radio waves to transmit and receive data communication, and it’s this technology that has conspiracy theorists around the world so riled up. The majority of the anti-5G claims focus on the idea that radio waves are a type of radiation. While this is true, not all radiation is dangerous. The types of radio waves used by 5G are non-ionizing and therefore not harmful to humans or animals. They don’t produce anywhere near enough radiation to damage electrons, upset our DNA, cause cancer, or indeed, the Coronavirus.
There is absolutely no scientific link between 5G and COVID-19, but despite the theory being debunked by scientists and leading health organisations around the world, the internet is still rife with rumours and misinformation.
Let’s take a deeper look at the theories themselves and where they came from.
5G Conspiracy Theories Are Nothing New
The idea that 5G technology may be harmful to humans has been steadily building in online communities long before the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world.
These concerns have roots in the earlier days of 3G, and later 4G, when small pockets of communities around the world protested the construction of new communications towers due to fears that they might cause cancer and other illnesses in humans.
5G technology uses a radio frequency between 30 and 90 gigahertz; much higher than that of 3G and 4G, which uses just 6 gigahertz. Since the technology is so powerful in comparison, it was inevitable that these old fears would be compounded with the rollout of 5G, and conspiracy theories were bound to surface.
In as far back as 2018, there were reports of a man from Gateshead who scaled a lamppost to remove what he believed was a 5G antenna, due to his fears that it was a danger to public health.
In the same period, stories of the deaths of large groups of birds in various towns and cities around Europe started popping up online, and the anti-5G community was quick to blame the rollout of the new technology, despite evidence to suggest other causes.
COVID-19 and 5G: The Perfect Conspiracy Storm
During 2019 there were pockets of 5G trials in various countries around the world, but China hit the headlines in November last year when it announced that every one of its state-backed operators would be rolling out the technology. China was now set to become the biggest 5G market in the world.
We all know what happened next. In December 2019, just one month later, China reported a cluster of cases of a new mystery virus originating from the city of Wuhan.
The timing of the start of the global pandemic could not have been better for the anti-5G conspiracy theorists. Wuhan had very recently implemented extensive 5G coverage and had now become a hotbed of a strange new Coronavirus.
What do the Conspiracy Theorists Believe About 5G and COVID-19?
Since then the internet has been ablaze with posts, articles, videos, and memes relating COVID-19 with 5G technology.
Multiple theories are circulating the internet, and while some of them support and overlap each other, many of them are also contradictory.
Some claim that 5G technology is solely responsible for the virus, while others say the technology simply lowers the body’s defences and makes people more susceptible to the symptoms of the Coronavirus. There are even some claims that there is no COVID-19 pandemic at all, rather one giant cover-up which enables governments to install 5G while the world is on lockdown.
Some conspiracy theorists have used maps to illustrate the areas where 5G has been deployed, and have claimed a correlation between these places and high spikes in the rate of COVID-19 infections.
This correlation is easily debunked when we take into account the nature of the areas involved. For example, in the USA and China, the major mobile phone networks chose to roll out the fifth-generation technology in major cities, rather than rural areas where people are more spread out.
These cities are densely populated and have a large number of people living in extremely close proximity to one another. They also have international airports and visitors from around the globe who will have unwittingly brought in the virus. Once the virus is in these cities, it’s only a matter of time before it spreads and the area becomes a hotbed of infection.
Though the conspiracy theorists are unable to agree on the details, one thing is for sure; as the pandemic escalated around the world, so did the claims of 5G’s involvement.
Celebrity’s Claims About 5G and COVID-19
Most conspiracy theories are peddled by marginalised groups and individuals on forums such as Reddit, but during the global pandemic, many celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon. Their status and huge following have helped to spread misinformation around the world.
Hollywood A-lister and former “Cheers” TV star Woody Harrelson shared his theory about the supposed negative effects of 5G and its role in the COVID-19 outbreak with his 2 million Instagram followers. The post, which received more than 25,000 likes, claimed that 5G radiation is “exacerbating” the spread of the virus and making its symptoms more deadly.
Singer, rapper, and songwriter M.I.A has also tweeted her concerns over 5G. She told her 645,000 followers that although she doesn’t think 5G is directly causing the Coronavirus, “it can confuse or slow the body down in healing process as the body is learning to cope with new signals wavelengths frequency etc @ same time as Cov”.
She also shared a photo of a 5G tower in the UK that had been subjected to an arson attack. “People in England are setting fire to it. They should just turn it off till after the pandemic!” she wrote.
Champion boxer Amir Khan also threw in his two cents, posting a series of videos on his Instagram account. While he doesn’t believe that 5G causes COVID-19, he told his 1.3 million followers “I think it’s a man-made thing guys, it’s been put there for a reason, to keep everyone in while they test for 5G”. He also speculated that the virus may have been designed for “population control”.
Celebrities like these have a huge audience and despite many of the posts being deleted or removed due to social media regulations, the mainstream media’s reports help to spread the misinformation around the globe, leading to dangerous consequences.
5G Anger Sparks Arson Attacks Around the World
The surge in misinformation has led to some shocking acts of vandalism on 5G masts as well as attacks and abuse on telecoms engineers, especially here in the UK.
On April 2nd, wireless towers in both Birmingham and Belfast were set alight, and the following day Liverpool saw a series of fires at both telecommunications boxes and communications towers. As news of these incidents spread, the UK faced a wave of fresh arson attacks and the numbers soared. MobileUK, the trade association for mobile network operators says “There have now been over 90 reports of attacks on phone masts, all of which are believed to be linked to the 5G Coronavirus conspiracy theories.“.
Telecoms Engineers have also been subjected to harassment and physical violence. The Communication Workers Union (CWU), the union and trade body which represents British telecoms workers, says they’ve received over 120 reports of cases of abuse towards their engineers, including threats of violence. Some workers even report receiving death threats and having objects thrown at them while trying to do their job.
The union points out that the majority of these engineers haven’t even been working on 5G technology, they’ve simply been maintaining the telecoms network.
Andy Kerr, the deputy general secretary of the CWU, says these engineers are playing a crucial role. “People are stuck at home – whether they want to watch their box set of Peaky Blinders or somebody’s isolated and they want to keep in touch with family.”
“The only way to do that is the telecom network. More importantly, these are engineers maintaining the network so it’s there for all the health and emergency services.”
The attacks have become so widespread that the UK Government released a statement saying they were “putting lives at risk” and the supposed link between 5G technology and the COVID-19 outbreak was nothing but a “crazed conspiracy theory”.
It’s not just the UK who have seen a rise in the number of attacks on phone masts and telecoms engineers. Elsewhere in Europe, the Netherlands has seen a spike in cases of criminal damage to communications towers, with 22 arson attacks and three attempts at physical violence towards engineers. There have also been numerous cases coming out of Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Finland, and Cyprus.
What do the Leading Authorities Have to Say About the Relationship Between 5G and COVID-19?
Since the rise in conspiracy theories surrounding 5G and COVID-19, several public health authorities have released statements reassuring the public about the safety of fifth-generation technology.
The UK Government states on its website that “There is no evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus.” “Viruses cannot travel on radio waves or mobile networks. The coronavirus is also spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks.”
They cite the scientific facts that “5G mobile data is transmitted over radio waves. These radio waves are non-ionising, meaning they do not carry enough energy to directly damage a person’s DNA inside cells.”
The World Health Organisation also fully rejects the claims that 5G technology may pose a risk to public health and have repeatedly stated that the radio waves used by mobile telecoms of all kinds are not in any way harmful to health and are completely safe.
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection has also released a statement saying that 5G signals pose absolutely no risk to human health. “Total exposure from all 5G mobile communication signals remains similar to existing mobile networks and well below the international safety guidelines”.
What Steps Have Been Taken to Stop the Spread of False Information?
With misinformation and false claims spreading rapidly around the world, tech giants have begun to take action to prevent the spread of these harmful conspiracy theories.
YouTube, where many of the original theories were born, have said that they are taking steps to reduce recommendations of videos which link COVID-19 to 5G.
Facebook, which also owns both WhatsApp and Instagram, released a statement saying it was “starting to remove false claims that 5G technology causes the symptoms of or contraction of COVID-19.”
Fact-checking programs have also been stepped up across many of the most popular social media giants, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They encourage users to assess the validity of information before they repost it, as well as highlighting potential misinformation that appears on user’s feeds. This helps to curb not just the 5G COVID-19 conspiracy theories, but many other inaccurate claims and cases of false information circulating the internet during the global pandemic.
The European Commission released a statement on its “fighting disinformation’ page saying “There is no evidence that 5G is harmful to people’s health.”, and “The outbreak of Coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan is unrelated to 5G, and is thought to have originated in a seafood wholesale market.”.
The World Health Organization has also created a coronavirus ‘Myth Busters’ page in an attempt to control the spread of misinformation. It clearly states that “5G mobile networks DO NOT spread COVID-19”. Like the UK government, it points out that “COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks.”
Despite major efforts by officials to put a stop these false claims, anti-5G groups continue to post their conspiracy theories online and as a result, mobile towers and telecoms engineers are still falling victim to senseless attacks.
Other Misinformation Surrounding the Global Pandemic
As well as the countless 5G conspiracy theories doing the rounds online, there are numerous other cases of false and potentially dangerous information being shared across social media and online platforms concerning the coronavirus pandemic.
This includes suggestions from the US President Donald Trump that the drug hydroxychloroquine can cure or even prevent COVID-19, even though there is no definitive evidence to suggest this yet. Doctors warn that misuse of hydroxychloroquine can cause serious side effects, illness and can even lead to irregular heart patterns resulting in death. The World Health Organisation stresses that there are currently no drugs licensed for the treatment or the prevention of COVID-19.
The WHO also points out on their Myth Busters page that despite the President’s suggestion at a recent news conference, “spraying and introducing bleach or another disinfectant into your body WILL NOT protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous”.
The US has seen a sharp rise in the number of calls to poison centres after the President’s comments. The New York City Poison Control Center reported almost triple the number of calls compared with the same time window the previous year. Other states cited similar increases, with reports of individuals gargling with a mixture of mouthwash and bleach in an attempt to kill the coronavirus.
How Can You Help to Stop the Spread of Misinformation?
As we’ve seen, misinformation can have dangerous consequences. That why it’s so important to report harmful posts if you see them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or any other platform.
We live in a time where false information and ‘fake news’ spreads like wildfire across the world, and the old saying ‘don’t believe everything you read’ has never been truer. It’s now more important than ever to fact check information before liking and sharing it online.
How to Fact Check
Fullfact.org is an independent fact-checking charity based in the UK that aims to counteract the spread of fake news online.
If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of something you read on the internet, you can contact them for help. They also have a handy ‘get the facts’ search tool so you can check the validity of posts before sharing them.
There are also certain steps you can take yourself to make sure you’re not sharing false information. To do this, ask yourself the following questions:
Where did the information come from?
- If the source is anonymous, it makes it difficult to verify the information. Always be wary of sharing something without a named source.
- If the information does name a source, for example, a news organisation, perform a search using their name and a few keywords from the article to check it’s legitimate.
- There are several trusted online sources where you can view current information regarding Coronavirus. The NHS website has detailed medical information, as does the World Health Organisation. It’s also worth checking the Frequently Asked Questions pages from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, as well as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both of these have accurate, trustworthy, and up to date information. If you find any information which contradicts these sources, this is a big red flag.
Are you being misled?
- Headlines are designed to generate as many clicks as possible, and they can often be misleading. Make sure you read the whole story before sharing an article that catches your attention.
- Look out for quotes that come from an unnamed source, or quotes that could have been taken out of context.
- Videos are often carefully edited to remove crucial bits of information that can change the context of the content.
- Images can also be misleading and taken out of context. A handy tool is Google’s image search. Simply right-click on an image in Google Chrome and select ‘Search Google for image”. This pulls up information about where the picture is from, as well as where it’s been used in the past.
5G is NOT Causing COVID-19
The global scientific and medical community is unanimous in their message; COVID-19 is a virus that is spread from person to person through droplets when people cough, sneeze or exhale. It is not linked to 5G in any way, and any claims to suggest otherwise are untrue and could be potentially dangerous.
To protect yourself and your community from COVID-19, it’s important to follow the government guidelines. Wash your hands regularly, practice social distancing and self-isolate if you experience any of the key symptoms:
- A new continuous cough
- A high temperature
- A loss or change to your sense of smell and taste.