Covid-19 and 5G: how to stop conspiracy theories from spreading

Last week SOMA – the European Observatory against Disinformation – has published an investigation that details a series of hoaxes and conspiracy theories related to an alleged correlation between Covid-19 and 5G technology. This investigation comes at a point in which disinformation on this issue is trending (graph below), leading – as we will see – to unexpected and dangerous consequences.

Graph 1: People around the world searching on Google for “Coronavirus 5g” (blue line) in the last 30 days – Source: Google Trends






For this reason, the SOMA Network has decided to publish a new article to lay out the evidence against this bogus correlation, to illustrate the real consequences of sharing these hoaxes and to give you some tools to counteract this disinformation campaign.

Why 5G cannot be correlated with Covid-19

These hoaxes on 5G and the new coronavirus can be summarized in two main streams: either the new coronavirus is activated by 5G, or Covid-19 doesn’t exist and the symptoms people are experiencing are reactions to 5G waves.

As explained in our previous article, these claims are false and not supported by scientific evidence. However, we would now make one step forward by explaining why, as of today, there is no evidence that Covid-19 is in any way related to 5G technology.

The answer is twofold. First of all, Covid-19 is a disease that originated by Sars-CoV-2, a virus that belongs to coronavirus’s family, which are found both in humans and in animals. Current evidence indicates that this virus firstly emerged in animals and it was then transmitted to human beings. Numerous elements support this hypothesis, especially the fact that 96 percent of the virus genome is identical to coronavirus hosted by bats. None of the studies on this virus suggest any relation with electromagnetic fields.

The second answer is related to 5G technology. Numerous reports have investigated and denied that this technology can be harmful if employed under a certain frequency. Most importantly, the research on assessing possible health issues related to 5G waves focuses on the potential for these waves to cause cancer. Symptoms like the one caused by Covid-19 are never mentioned in these studies. Also, it is curious that anti-5G activists have rapidly switched from saying that this technology causes cancer to accuse 5G of being responsible for respiratory diseases such as Covid-19.

In conclusion, at this point in time, every theory related to 5G being connected to Covid-19 it’s both unrealistic and false.

The consequences of people falling for this false news

Readers might now ask what is the consequence of believing these kinds of hoaxes. Are people just sharing them online?

The short answer seems: no. People are not just passively reading about this. They are also engaging politically, acting on these false beliefs. For instance, several petitions have been created on Change.Org to ask governments to stop the rollout of 5G infrastructures, because of their alleged role in activating Covid-19. Even if some of these have been removed from the platform – like the one addressed to the UK government, which reached more than 100,000 signatories  – others are still available at this point in time. As an example, an Italian petition asking to the European Union and the Italian government to “say the truth” regarding the connection between 5G and Covid-19 has reached almost 50,000 signatories.

Other people have instead expressed their grievances on 5G and Covid-19 on the streets. In a video tweeted by journalist Charles Haynes (BBC) – which has now reached 2,4 million views – we can see a woman harassing two broadband workers in the UK that were installing a 5G connection. This was justified – according to the woman – because 5G technology is responsible for killing people and it’s the reason why people are confined at home and it’s «why they are building the hospitals».

Some individuals have pushed these beliefs even further by engaging in criminal activities. According to The Guardian, at least 20 phone masts have been critically damaged in the UK, with some of them even being set on fire, because of the idea that these could help to spread coronavirus. However, most of them were not even equipped with 5G, and they were actually employing 4G and 3G technology. These acts and theories have been dubbed by the UK government as «dangerous nonsense», especially given the relevance that internet connection is acquiring during the Covid-19 lockdown.

What you can do

It is now clear that false news on 5G and Covid-19 can have serious real-life consequences. That is why we would like readers to actively try to stop these hoaxes from spreading and wreaking havoc.

As a starting point, we suggest you get informed by using the list of reliable sources we have written about in this article. By reading updated and evidence-based information, you will be able to recognize and flag potential disinformation. In particular, we recommend you to always check the myth busters section of the WHO’s website, where you’ll find some of the most widely spread hoaxes on Covid-19 being debunked. The WHO has also put in place dedicated messaging services (that you can find here) in Arabic, English, French and Spanish with partners WhatsApp and Facebook to keep people safe and informed on the new coronavirus.

At the same time, we recommend you to report suspicious content on the platform on which you see that kind of information. For instance, Change.Org, the website on which people are sharing anti-5G and Covid-19 petitions, has created a procedure to report content that violates the platform’s policies.

Finally, we suggest you to constantly read debunking articles published by fact-checking organizations from your country, such as those that participate in the SOMA network. Also, you can report to us (using the address suspicious claims related to 5G and Covid-19 that you see on social media or on any other websites.

This article has been written by Pagella Politica with support from the SOMA network.