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The latest wildly false COVID-19 conspiracy theory puts the blame on 5G

Despite YouTube’s efforts to take down misinformation related to coronavirus, a new crop of fake videos is making it through.

The latest wildly false COVID-19 conspiracy theory puts the blame on 5G
[Photo: Pedro Lastra/Unsplash]
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The coronavirus has presented a new opportunity for a variety of hucksters, scammers, and conspiracy theorists. The latest wildly untruthful theory? That COVID-19 is caused by 5G.

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Videos with the title “FORMER VODAFONE BOSS BLOWS WHISTLE ON 5G CORONAVIRUS” are flooding YouTube from various accounts with the goal of espousing this narrative. They appeared to have slipped past YouTube’s effort to take down misinformation about the coronavirus. One of these videos has reached some 13,000 views as of this writing.

Google and Facebook have been working to combat misinformation around COVID-19. But some fraudulent content is still getting through. In this video, which is being posted from multiple accounts, an anonymous narrator with a pleasant English accent (supposedly Vodafone’s former CEO), explains that 5G is poisoning our cells and our cells responding by trying to expel that “toxicity.” This is plainly false. Links between 5G and COVID-19 have been widely debunked.

COVID-19 is a coronavirus, like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), both of which are believed to have originated in animals. COVID-19 is also a respiratory illness that likely came from an animal. It is transmitted through “respiratory droplets” that come from coughs and sneezes. That is why regions where people live in close proximity to each other, like New York, are seeing the disease advance quickly. It’s also why people who self-isolate are likely to avoid getting the virus if they don’t already have it.

Beyond the clear medical fact that the coronavirus is a virus, not some toxicity caused by 5G, COVID-19 has also spread everywhere, including places that don’t have 5G. In the U.S., 5G is fairly limited, and its slow rollout does not cover much of the country yet.

There is a lot of misinformation circling about the coronavirus, both in the U.S. and outside of it, leading the World Health Organization to dub this phenomenon an “infodemic.” In the U.K. this week, the government’s media regulator told broadcasters they would face sanctions if they helped to spread any baseless theories linking 5G with the coronavirus.

This conspiracy theory has been building since at least mid-March. The number of videos recently published on YouTube, however, show there’s renewed force to spread it.

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Conspiracy theories that 5G will make people sick have been circulating for years. They are reliably trumpeted from sources like the U.S.-based Russian media outlet RT America. As The New York Times reporter William J. Broad has written, such propaganda may be aimed at slowing the U.S. deployment of 5G technology, which, with its super-fast internet speeds, will inevitably boost the economy. A global pandemic was an obvious opportunity for fraudsters to connect the rise of 5G with mass illness.

About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

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