5G phone masts are being set alight in the UK after online conspiracy theories have misleadingly linked the cell towers to the coronavirus pandemic.
The BBC reports that at least three 5G towers were set alight within the last week due to coronavirus rumours; and police and fire services were called to extinguish the flames.
Rumours and conspiracy theories over a link between the rollout of 5G and the spread of coronavirus have been spread primarily through social media networks.
A variety of groups exist on Facebook and Nextdoor; where thousands of members repeat false and misleading claims that the network is supposedly harmful.
One theory claims that the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan because the Chinese city had recently been rolling out 5G. It’s now supposedly spread to other cities that are also using 5G.
These false conspiracy theories neglect to mention that a highly contagious virus would naturally spread more in densely populated cities with access to 5G; and that the coronavirus pandemic has hit counties like Iran and Japan where 5G isn’t in use yet.
There is no scientific evidence that links the coronavirus pandemic to 5G, nor any immediate negative health effects.
This hasn’t stopped these wild conspiracy theories from spreading, though. Some people are even harassing workers laying fiber optic cables for installations; claiming that when the network is turned on it’s going to “kill everyone.”
Like many conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns, Russia may well be at the heart of the health scares.
While a large number of Facebook groups have been fueling these theories recently; a New York Times report from last year warned that Russian disinformation campaigns were actively exploiting health fears.
RT America, a Russian government-funded TV network, aired a report more than a year ago in which an RT reporter claimed it “might kill you.”