UK debunks 5G-coronavirus link after conspiracy theorists burn cell tower
While there’s zero factual support for a conspiracy theory linking the COVID-19 virus to 5G cellular technology — and the scientific community has concluded that 5G is safe — the UK government was forced today to explicitly address the topic after arsonists burned down a cell tower over 5G, and used Facebook to encourage others to follow suit.
“There is absolutely no credible evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus,” the UK’s department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) tweeted, noting that “inaccurate information” was being spread online about 5G. The DCMS pointed to research debunking the supposed link between 5G and the coronavirus, as well as links discussing the actual cause of the infection — direct exposure to COVID-19 particles spread through physical contact, not radio waves.
Trade association Mobile UK joined the DCMS by issuing an extended statement on the topic, calling the conspiracy theory “baseless” and “not grounded in accepted scientific theory.” Representing all of the UK’s major carriers, Mobile UK noted that “some people are also abusing our key workers and making threats to damage infrastructure,” a particular concern given the necessity of a working cellular network as the coronavirus adds new strains to already fragile work-from-home connections and emergency services.
Researchers last year blamed a Russian disinformation campaign for stoking concerns about the safety of 5G technologies, noting that bad science and irrational fear were fueling U.S. and international protests. Despite multiple public warnings that the disinformation campaign was ongoing, and official rebuttals from both governments and scientists, “concerned citizens” have continued to use social media to spread the 5G conspiracy theories, most recently leveraging the coronavirus outbreak to agitate for acts of cell tower destruction.
UK-based publications have described the arsonists as “idiots,” blaming the Birmingham tower fire on a celebrity-spread claim that COVID-19 wasn’t impacting Africa because of the lack of 5G there. As coronavirus tracking maps show, there are in fact thousands of COVID-19 cases in Africa, as well as in South America, Mexico, and numerous other countries without 5G infrastructure.