In the UK, they began to burn towers with 5G. They are considered coronavirus peddlers because of conspiracy theories on social networks.

The authorities claim that the virus is not connected with cell towers, and social networks block fake content.

5G equipment in London Photo EE

On April 3, residents of Liverpool, Birmingham and Melling set fire to cell towers after rumors that the 5G connection carries coronavirus spread. After that, the country’s authorities denied, large social networks began to block the spread of conspiracy theories, and Russia was named their source.

The cause of arson was two popular theories from social networks.

As British operators Vodafone and EE told The Verge, at least four towers suffered from arson on April 3, and the next day, unknown attacked four more towers. At least one of them, in Birmingham, did not even give out a 5G signal, but it was still burned, specified in EE.

Our engineers determine the cause of the fire at one of our towers in Birmingham. If it turns out that this is arson, but for now everything looks just like that, then we will help the police find the perpetrators.

EE representatives

Representatives of the operator noted that the tower served “thousands of people” in the area of ​​2G, 3G and 4G-communication for many years. The company promised to restore the connection as soon as possible, but the fire damage was called “significant.”

The cobbled 5G tower in the UK SnapperSK photo

The fact-checking organization Full Fact has linked the arson of the towers with two popular conspiracy theories. They were distributed at the end of March in various groups on Facebook, through voice messages on WhatsApp and fake videos on YouTube.

According to one theory, 5G emits radiation, which suppresses the human immune system, and because of this, people become infected with coronavirus. The main argument of the supporters of the idea is that the virus originated in Wuhan, because shortly before that, 5G was deployed in the city. After that, the infection allegedly began to spread to cities, which also launched a new generation of networks.

Proponents of another theory claim that the virus somehow uses the radio waves of 5G networks to spread and select victims. It is based on the study of Nobel laureate Luca Montagier, who as early as 2011 suggested that bacteria are able to generate radio waves.

As Full Fact points out, there is actually no scientific basis for both theories. 5G does use a different frequency of radio waves to provide communication, but they are still considered “non-ionizing”, which means they don’t carry enough energy to harm a person. In addition, supporters of theories do not take into account that coronavirus has long penetrated into cities and countries like Iran and Japan, where 5G is either just starting to deploy, or has not been approved at all.

Authorities and operators urged not to destroy infrastructure during a pandemic

The spread of conspiracy theories has led not only to attacks on cell towers, but also to attacks on workers who service and install equipment for next-generation networks. They began to be chased on the streets due to the fact that the inclusion of 5G “will kill everyone.”

British mobile operators consider attacks on their employees and towers as a subversive to national security. By to Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery, police and counter-terrorist organizations are already investigating the incidents.

The authorities urged residents of the UK not to destroy the infrastructure, as the National Health Service also relies on cellular networks. The director of the department, Stephen Powis, said at a press conference that 5G is crucial both for the population who stays at home and for doctors who fight the virus.

The truth is that mobile networks are extremely important for all of us, especially at a time when we ask people to stay at home and not see their relatives and friends. But cellular is also important to our emergency services and doctors, and I am extremely indignant that people are harming the infrastructure that we rely on to deal with this emergency.

Stephen Powis

Director of UK National Health Services

At the Ministry of Digital Technology, Culture, Media, and Sports (DCMS), conspiracy theories have been called “delirium.” After setting fire to the towers, the department called on social networks to limit the spread of false information. Head of DCMS arranged meeting with representatives of the largest venues to convince them to block fakes.

Russia is considered to be the source of fakes, social networks have already begun blocking conspiracy content

As noted at The Verge, Russia could be the primary source of fakes about the connection between 5G and the coronavirus. As early as 2019, The New York Times reported the use of fears about next-generation networks in disinformation campaigns of Russian origin.

In January 2019, a story about the dangers of 5G networks was even shown on RT America, a television channel sponsored from the state budget of the Russian Federation. Then the presenter claimed that the new generation of networks “can kill you.”

So far, most social networks have not publicly responded to calls from the British authorities. On Facebook you can still find groups created specifically to coordinate the arson of cell towers across the country. One of them, expert on mobile infrastructure Peter Clark complained twice before the social network blocked her.

The first platform to promise to fight disinformation in the UK was YouTube. The service promised that they would no longer recommend videos to users disseminating conspiracy theories about the relationship between 5G and coronavirus.

Representatives of YouTube also noted that some videos may be considered “borderline content” and promised to deprive them of advertising revenue and remove them from search results. Such videos in the service include videos in which they can talk about the dangers of 5G, but not mention the coronavirus.

The Guardian checked the operation of the system. Journalists found a video with a man who called himself the former head of one of the British operators and claimed that the coronavirus tests were actually intended to spread it. According to him, a pandemic was created to hide the number of deaths from cellular communications.

After the journalists marked one clip as fake, YouTube really deleted it. However, The Guardian almost immediately found three more other versions of the same video uploaded to different channels.


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