Locking the majority of the world’s population in their homes gives a lot of people a lot of time to think. Some of those thoughts come in the form of questioning how we got here and pondering what’s in store for our future.
Social media acts as a giant soap box to share these thoughts, many of which spread around the world like a… well, like a virus.
One such thought is that 5G is somehow linked to the spread of Coronavirus 2019 or COVID-19.
5G is the fifth generation of wireless communication, a technology that began rolling out to the masses in 2019. A plethora of health related theories rolled out shortly after, reaching pinnacle status when someone linked the tech to the spreading of coronavirus.
This particular theory is rooted in the timing of 5G’s roll out in China, which some say directly coincides with the emergence of the coronavirus. Proponents of the theory claim 5G functions on a higher radio frequency than its 4G predecessor, affecting the oxygen we breathe and ultimately compromising human immune systems.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, says the claims are “outrageous” and “utter rubbish.”
“I’m absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted, that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency,” Powis said Saturday at the Downing Street press conference. “It is absolute and utter rubbish.”
While many scientific researchers are quick to quell the theory that 5G causes health problems, it hasn’t stopped the notion from going viral on social media sites.
Kim Zetter, an award winning journalist who has covered cybersecurity and national security since 1999, tweeted Friday about the widespread reach of what she calls the coronavirus 5G conspiracy. “487 Facebook communities, 84 Instagram accounts, 52 Twitter accounts,” she wrote. “On YouTube, the 10 most popular 5G coronavirus conspiracy videos posted in March were viewed over 5.8 million times.”
Had no idea the coronavirus 5G conspiracy was so widespread: “487 Facebook communities, 84 Instagram accounts, 52 Twitter accounts…On YouTube, the 10 most popular 5G coronavirus conspiracy videos posted in March were viewed over 5.8 million times.” https://t.co/XxZeFIvpTe— Kim Zetter (@KimZetter) April 10, 2020
Even celebrities are joining in on the conversation. Actor Woody Harrelson made headlines when he posted to Instagram an image questioning whether 5G was related to some form of radiation poisoning. “Alot [sic] of my friends have been talking about the negative effects of 5G,” he wrote. “I haven’t fully vetted it, I find it very interesting.”
John Cusak, of “Say Anything” fame, tweeted on April 7th, “5-G will be proven to be very bad for people’s health.” Before the tweet was deleted, Cusak engaged in conversation with naysayers. “What’s a conspiracy theory,” the actor asked. “That 5-G effects are not vetted – funny in 2014 when I said the social media companies and phones were collecting all data meta data – I was called a crank – I got political sources I trust.”
Regardless of whether you believe the theory or not, one thing is for certain: some people are taking violent actions. In the UK, reports are streaming in of individuals and mobs burning 5G cell towers.
“Mankind is WAKING up,” Twitter user Chelsea Boss wrote. An attached video shows 5G towers burning in London.
🚨🚨🚨 Mankind is WAKING up 😁😁💪💪🙌🙌🥰🥰🚨🚨🚨✔️✔️ burning down 5G towers in London, England— 👑Mr Chelsea Boss👑 #Vision2023 #MAGA2020 (@MrChelseaBoss) April 9, 2020
Others are not so proud of the destructive actions of their peers. “In the UK people are burning down 5G towers believing that there is a link between them and coronavirus,” tweeted a user identified at Antisocial_butterfly. “After seeing this I am embarrassed to be British.”
In the UK people are burning down 5G towers believing that there is a link between them and coronavirus. After seeing this I am embarrassed to be British. pic.twitter.com/kV7m0RYot7— Antisocial_butterfly (@_butterf1y_) April 6, 2020
Facebook has taken a proactive approach to stopping what it considers to be “false claims” regarding 5G technology. “We are taking aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platforms and connect people to accurate information about Coronavirus,” the social media giant said in a statement. “Under our existing policies against harmful misinformation, we are starting to remove false claims which link COVID-19 to 5G technology and could lead to physical harm.”
On Thursday, Bloomberg reported the 5G link to coronavirus may be part of a coordinated misinformation effort, similar to the one launched by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential elections. The article did not offer any potential motives for the possible misinformation campaign.