As the novel Coronavirus began to spread across the world, among several conspiracy theories, several tweets surfaced linking the new 5G network to the pandemic. While the theory was quickly dismissed by experts, it didn't stop people from burning down 5G towers in the U.K. and Australia. Since the theory began to emerge, thousands of people on social media have supported the claim.
While it was first assumed as a conspiracy madness, soon Russian links emerged. Even Australia's Communications and Cyber Safety Minister Paul Fletcher believes it would be "naÃ¯ve" to think a hostile foreign country is not involved in spreading such misinformation.
In an interview with Four Corners on Sunday, July 2, Fletcher, without naming a country, said that it was an attempt to create instability in democracies like Australia. "We'd be naive if we did not recognize the possibility that some of these claims are being generated by hostile governments or by others who have a motive to try and create instability and disorder in democracies like Australia," he said.
5G Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories
Fears about radio-frequency are not new. Many have linked radio-frequency (RF) radiation to possible cancer in children and the disappearance of small birds. But with the announcement of 5G technology, theories somehow got amplified as it uses millimeter-wave technology to transmit data faster than ever (sometimes 100 times faster than the 4G speed at over 3.5-Gbps).
But experts have debunked the claims. Professor Rodney Croft, who is the chairman of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which recommends safe exposure of RF, said that 5G isn't unsafe.
"This (5G) is one of the most researched physical agents in the world. The radiation that's being emitted by these devices is essentially the same as it's always been, and essentially the same as we've had around with radio, for instance, AM and FM radio for many years," he told ABC News, adding that the researches give him confidence about 5G.
Despite the number of researches, it didn't deter conspiracy theorists associating it with Coronavirus. In one of the tweets, Wuhan's (the Chinese city where the virus originated) 5G bases were linked to the Coronavirus outbreak. It was claimed that 5G millimeter wave technology is being used to control minds. Another claimed that the COVID-19 pandemic was created so that the 5G technology could be rolled out swiftly without any opposition.
If that was absurd, it has been also claimed that 5G radio wave somehow creates an immune deficiency in the human body and that's the reason why COVID-19 has spread so rapidly. The 5G network is also apparently causing oxygen deprivation in blood.
In addition, many conspiracy theorists such as David Icke has used some misinformed 5G news stories as a base for anti-5G-Coronavirus propaganda. While most of the videos linking 5G to Coronavirus have been removed from social media platforms including YouTube, those still managed to get millions of views from around the world. Icke also claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine, which the entire world is eagerly waiting for, will be used to insert a nanochip to track and control humans.
The vaccine part of it was soon picked up by anti-vaxxers around the world including celebrities on social media. Popular rapper Wiz Khalifa and singer Keri Hilson, to name a few, linked 5G with Coronavirus and the disinformation was shared among millions of their followers like wildfire.
Although Russia's President Vladimir Putin launched the country's 5G networks and supported the expansion of the technology, state-funded Russian news outlet RT and pro-Kremlin website Global Research have been doing stories on 5G, linking it to health hazards.
In an article, the New York Times pointed out many instances where RT published numerous anti-5G stories. During the initial announcement and planned rollout of 5G, the Russian news organization covered a topic titled, "A Dangerous 'Experiment on Humanity."
In that segment, guest experts claimed that 5G was a threat to health that could cause autism, infertility and Alzheimer's among many others. But there has not been any scientific evidence in such claims. RT, however, denies the allegations and maintains that these stories are to show the "breadth of debate."
Apart from 5G, recently, the EUvsDisinfo, a European Union-funded fact-checking website, stated that it had registered numerous Russian sponsored claims related to Coronavirus and COVID-19 against the U.S. and its Western allies. One of the articles even alleged that the U.S. created the Coronavirus.
Such groups have also targeted Australia's 5G network after many of the articles have been shared by the country's anti-5G Facebook groups. Ryan Fox, Chief Operating Officer of New Knowledge, a company that debunks misinformation, told New York Times that Russia's attempt to discredit 5G is "economic warfare." He added, "Russia doesn't have a good 5G play, so it tries to undermine and discredit ours."