COVID-19 Conspiracy Theorists Set Fire to 5G Cell Towers in UK

The UK government is calling on social media and video sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to crack down on 5G conspiracy theories after cell towers were set on fire by people believing that they were causing the global coronavirus pandemic.

Conspiracy theorists claim that the next-generation wireless technology, currently being rolled out across the UK, has a detrimental impact on our health as it lowers our immune systems, reads a new report from The Verge. As COVID-19 spreads worldwide, the idea that 5G is dangerous has now been connected to the outbreak.

Over the weekend, UK Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove branded such stories — making the rounds across Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and Pinterest, among other social networks — as “dangerous nonsense.” NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis is one of countless scientists who deem the rumour as baseless; branding the claims as “rubbish.”

Britain’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, will meet with social media companies this week to discuss the spread of disinformation about 5G and COVID-19, a government spokesperson told CNBC.

“We have received several reports of criminal damage to phone masts and abuse of telecoms engineers apparently inspired by crackpot conspiracy theories circulating online. Those responsible for criminal acts will face the full force of the law,” the spokesperson said.

“We must also see social media companies acting responsibly and taking much swifter action to stop nonsense spreading on their platforms which encourages such acts,” the spokesperson concluded.

On Sunday, YouTube agreed to reduce the amount of content on the platform that links 5G technology with COVID-19. The company said that it will actively remove videos that breach its policies, but said that it does not plan to remove content that is simply conspiratorial about 5G, without mentioning the coronavirus.

A spokesperson for the company said: “We have clear policies that prohibit videos promoting medically unsubstantiated methods to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us.”

“We have also begun reducing recommendations of borderline content such as conspiracy theories related to 5G and coronavirus that could misinform users in harmful ways.”

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