Coronavirus conspiracy theorists burn 5G masts and threaten UK engineers

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Several reports from the UK have confirmed that broadband engineers are facing verbal and physical threats thanks to a conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 pandemic has been caused by 5G technology. It has also been reported and confirmed that a small Facebook movement is actively encouraging, and carrying out, the burning of 5G masts across the country. Sit down. We need to talk.

First up, the reports. Yesterday, The Guardian published the following report:

Telecoms engineers are facing verbal and physical threats during the lockdown, as baseless conspiracy theories linking coronavirus to the roll-out of 5G technology spread by celebrities such as Amanda Holden prompt members of the public to abuse those maintaining vital mobile phone and broadband networks.

That’s right. Broadband engineers, responsible for the installation and maintenance of the internet, are being threatened and subjected to on-street abuse. Why? Because a conspiracy theory polluting UK Facebook claims that 5G and the coronavirus pandemic are somehow related.

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The report continues:

The problem has become so bad that engineers working for BT Openreach, which provides home broadband services, have also taken to posting public pleas on anti-5G Facebook groups asking to be spared the on-street abuse as they are not involved in maintaining mobile networks.

This report, along with several others has also noted that arson attacks are being carried out on 5G masts in major cities. From the BBC:

Mobile phone masts have been torched and engineers abused over “baseless” theories linking coronavirus to 5G.

UK mobile network providers have warned against the spread of the theories after videos showing masts on fire were posted on social media.

Masts were set alight in Sparkhill, Birmingham, on Thursday and Melling, Merseyside, on Friday.

Trade body Mobile UK, which represents network providers, said the false rumours and theories were “concerning”.

These were also reported by 5Gradar and The Sun.

Conspiracy theories are usually laughable. Sadly, however, it seems that the dangerous stupidity of individuals on Facebook is putting lives and property at risk. I can’t even believe that I have to write any this, and I’m sure you find yourself, as I am, at a total loss as to where to even begin with a story like this.

As tweeted by the DCMS in response to these reports, there is, of course, no credible evidence to support the link of 5G and the coronavirus pandemic.

We even have our own report on 5G and the safety of these new networks! From that report:

There’s been no shortage of wild theories regarding the purported dangers of 5G, which far too often get amplified by users with large audiences on social media. Many of these posts are presented without any verifiable sources, and make bold claims that 5G has lead to widespread sudden deaths or even that it caused the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With a small bit of research, these conspiracy theories are easily debunked. Once again, most of the radio frequencies used for 5G have been in place for years, and the higher frequencies used for millimeter wave 5G non-ionizing. There are simply no signs pointing to 5G being any more dangerous than the LTE networks preceding it. The best thing you can do to prevent the spread of misinformation is to share scientifically backed, well-researched articles and sources demystifying the technologies behind 5G.

I would take a further step and suggest that with no research at all, only logic, it’s possible to understand that this cannot possibly be true.

Coronavirus has impacted a lot of people, testing shows that there are now more than a million cases worldwide, and likely there are many more cases that are going undetected through asymptomatic patients and those who have not been tested. If 5G and the coronavirus were linked, everyone would be affected.

Secondly, the most recent reports suggest that there are recorded coronavirus case in 181. GSA figures from March 29 state:

By the end of March 2020 381 operators in 123 countries had announced they were investing in 5G.

A total of 70 operators in 40 countries had launched one or more 3GPP-compliant 5G services.

5G is only live in 40 countries. Again, I can’t believe we’re even here explaining this, but with no scientific or medical research whatsoever, you can clearly demonstrate that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting countries, for example across the African continent, where no 5G networks yet exist.

So who is spreading this nonsense? Well, as The Guardian notes, TV personality, actress Amanda Holden, and a judge on Britain’s Got Talent shared an unfortunate petition demanding that the government stop the rollout of 5G over health concerns, a post she has now deleted. On Facebook (and it would be Facebook wouldn’t it), which seems to be the epicenter of this movement, both groups and individuals are trying to spread this message.

One Facebook page, now removed, was titled, (and I am not making this up) ‘5G TOWER FIRE COMP’. As you can see in the image below, they have a league table competition to see who can burn the most towers in UK towns and cities. Ironically, several of the listed locations don’t have any 5G coverage. (Burnley, Fleetwood, etc.)

Perhaps more unnerving still, one individual in these groups (who will not be identified) took to Facebook encouraging violence against coronavirus patients within NHS hospitals to ‘uncover the truth’.

This particular profile was awash with such threats and misinformation such as “CoronaVirus is a scam! It’s simply a smokescreen for 5G genocide!” in the profile.

This is some of the most deplorable news I have ever read. The conspiracy theory these actions are based on should be laughed out the door by everyone who has a platform to do so. The senseless individuals and movements trying to propagate these lies should, and hopefully will, be silenced. Those carrying out acts of arson and threatening violence will be criminally reprimanded.

As you’ve probably guessed, there’s likely not much to be gained by trying to reason with the people behind all of this. Those making threats, verbal and physical, towards broadband engineers, don’t even know the difference between mobile and internet networks. As with every conspiracy theory, each outlet that decries this action becomes part of some elaborate coverup, each piece of evidence against their claims are simply manufactured. Conspiracy theories like this seem to take hold in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary for this very reason.

So spread the right news, from the right places, to everyone who needs to hear it.

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