The absurd conspiracy theory linking 5G to coronavirus - and the myths debunked

Monday, 6th April 2020, 9:33 am
Updated Monday, 6th April 2020, 9:34 am
Conspiracy theorists are claiming that 5G can negatively affect the immune system (Photo: Shutterstock)

The coronavirus outbreak marks a frightening and unsettling time for everyone, leaving most of us baffled at the strange time we are now forced to live in.

With numerous countries around the world now on lockdown, the worldwide impact has been huge and it has naturally inspired many conspiracy theorists to try and explain how the virus has left the world in such a mess.

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Several outlandish tales have already emerged in response, from claims that Disney’s Tangled predicted the pandemic, to claims that helicopters were going to spray the whole of the UK with disinfectant.

But now, some people are placing the blame on 5G wireless network technology for the global outbreak.

Why do people think 5G is responsible?

Conspiracy theorists are claiming that 5G can negatively affect the immune system, and Wuhan was the first city in China to get 5G.

The theory was widely spread in an anti-5G Facebook Group, which has more than 27,000 members, and regularly shares videos and posts that associate the spread of coronavirus with the rise of 5G connectivity.

One post which claimed that 5G was rolled out of Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, was shared more than 300 times when it was posted in late January.

The post now carries a warning that it has been debunked by independent fact-checking charity, Full Fact.

Is there any evidence to support the theory?

The charity found no evidence that Wuhan was the first city to receive 5G coverage, pointing out that it was just one of several Chinese cities where 5G trials took place, with Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou already covered by the network by October 2019.

The suggestion that 5G can be harmful to the immune system was also firmly dismissed, with the charity insisting the claim is “totally unfounded”.

In a report, Grace Raham from Full Fact wrote: “There is no evidence that 5G is harmful to humans.

“5G is the next generation of wireless network technology, following on from 4G. Like 4G, 3G and 2G before it, 5G mobile data is transmitted over radio waves - a small part of the whole electromagnetic spectrum (which includes microwaves, visible light and X-rays).

“These radio waves are non-ionising, meaning they don’t damage the DNA inside cells, as X-rays, gamma rays and UV rays are able to do.

“5G, although at slightly higher frequencies than previous networks, is still in this radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum.”

Public Health England also said there is no “convincing evidence” that exposure to such non-ionising radio waves can cause adverse effects on health.

Why is social media promoting conspiracy theories?

Users who search for ‘coronavirus’ on Facebook are advised to visit the NHS website for the latest information, but false adverts that claim to promote a cure for the virus have also been circulating on the platform.

Facebook said it would begin to remove content “with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them" on 30 January.

However, many debunked claims still remain accessible in 5G group pages.

A now inactive advert featured on the platform in March, which directed users to a YouTube video entitled “Coronavirus, Bill Gates and 5G”, was seen up to 20,000 times throughout the month, the i reports.

This came despite assurances from Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on 4 March that the company was focusing on stopping virus-related hoaxes and harmful misinformation.

The company said in a statement that it would remove false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading health organisations.

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