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An anti-5G sticker in Luxembourg.
An anti-5G sticker in Luxembourg

Misinformation related to 5G technology is widespread in many countries of the world. The spreading of false information and conspiracy theories has also been propagated by the general public and celebrities. In social media, misinformation related to 5G has been presented as facts, and shared extensively.[1] There are no scientifically proven adverse health impacts from the exposure to 5G radio frequency radiation with levels below those suggested by the guidelines of regulating bodies, including the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).[2][3][4] Furthermore, studies have shown that there is no noticeable increase in the everyday radiofrequency electromagnetic exposure since 2012, despite the increased use of communication devices.[5]

Extent

In a survey conducted in the US, 1500 adults were asked whether the US government is using the COVID-19 vaccine to place microchips in the population. 5% of the survey takers said that this was definitely true and 15% said that it was probably true.[6] Many wrongly believe these microchips will be controlled via 5G. In a survey conducted among the residents of Nordic countries, 61% replied that they did not know enough about 5G, or how it affects their lives. In 2018, 67% of the Nordic consumers expressed that they would eventually switch to 5G when it became available. In 2020, this figure dropped to 61%, which could be due to misinformation related to 5G. It may also be due to the perceived lack of benefits of 5G over the existing 4G in terms of consumer applications.[7]

One third of British people said in a 2020 survey that they cannot rule out a link between COVID-19 and 5G. Eight percent of the survey takers believed that there is a link between the two, while 19% remained unsure.[8]

A 2020 study that monitored data from Google Trends showed that searches related to coronavirus and 5G started at different times, but peaked in the same week of April 5 in six countries.[9]

Misinformation about the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as its origin is from 5G technology, has been reported to cause higher anxiety in a study conducted in Jordan.[10]

A 2020 study analysing Twitter data related to tweets about 5G and COVID-19 showed that 34% of the tweeters believed in the role of 5G in the COVID-19 outbreak, while 32% denounced or mocked it.[11]

List of popular misinformation

Origin

There have been conspiracy theories suggesting that the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the epicentre of the pandemic in Wuhan, China, is linked to the large number of 5G towers in the city. However, the truth is that 5G technology is not fully deployed in Wuhan.[12]

Health impact

WHO poster warning misinformation related to 5G

See also: Wireless device radiation and health

See also: COVID-19 misinformation § 5G mobile phone networks

Environmental impact

Government and industrial surveillance

Misconception of 5G principal concepts

Impact

The unsupported health theories have already led to vandalism and burning of some 5G equipment, particularly in the United Kingdom. Unfounded health fears have stalled the network upgrades necessary to reach faster speeds in some cities,[23] while the coronavirus pandemic has slowed sales of 5G-compatible phones.

List of protests

Efforts to counter misinformation

Many organisations, including the World Health Organization, have created mythbusters and educational material to counter misinformation related to 5G, especially about its effect on health.[32] The Australian Parliament, in its inquiry into 5G technology, has noted that community confidence in 5G has been shaken by extensive misinformation, and government agencies as well as industries have stepped up to provide trustworthy information to the public.[1]

In April 2020, Twitter updated its policy on 'unverified claims that incite harmful activity' which could, among other things, lead to the damage of 5G infrastructure.[33] In June 2020, Twitter started placing fact checking labels on tweets about 5G and COVID-19.[34] Facebook has removed several posts with false claims of associations between 5G and COVID-19.[8]

A 2020 study recommends that denunciation of the 5G and COVID-19 theory from a world leader would have helped in mitigating the spread of misinformation. The study also recommends that the fight against misinformation should ideally happen in the platform where the misinformation is being shared. Appeals from cultural figures with large following on social media can also help reduce misinformation. The general public can stop the spread of misinformation by reporting harmful content as well as by not sharing or engaging with them.[11]

References

  1. ^ a b "The Next Gen Future: Inquiry into the deployment, adoption and application of 5G in Australia". Australian Parliament. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  2. ^ Elzanaty, Ahmed; Chiaraviglio, Luca; Alouini, Mohamed-Slim (2021). "5G and EMF Exposure: Misinformation, Open Questions, and Potential Solutions". Frontiers in Communications and Networks. 2: 5. doi:10.3389/frcmn.2021.635716. ISSN 2673-530X.
  3. ^ Bushberg, J.T.; Chou, C.K.; Foster, K.R.; Kavet, R.; Maxson, D.P.; Tell, R.A.; Ziskin, M.C. (August 2020). "IEEE Committee on Man and Radiation—COMAR Technical Information Statement: Health and Safety Issues Concerning Exposure of the General Public to Electromagnetic Energy from 5G Wireless Communications Networks". Health Physics. 119 (2): 236–246. doi:10.1097/HP.0000000000001301. ISSN 0017-9078. PMC 7337122. PMID 32576739.
  4. ^ "5G confirmed safe by radiation watchdog". The Guardian. 12 March 2020. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  5. ^ Jalilian, Hamed; Eeftens, Marloes; Ziaei, Mansour; Röösli, Martin (1 September 2019). "Public exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields in everyday microenvironments: An updated systematic review for Europe". Environmental Research. 176: 108517. Bibcode:2019ER....176j8517J. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2019.05.048. ISSN 0013-9351. PMID 31202043. S2CID 189897964. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  6. ^ "The Economist/YouGov Poll" (PDF). Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  7. ^ "5G: Is misinformation messing with our minds? | Digital Consumer Trends 2020". Deloitte Denmark (in Swedish). Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Facebook acts to halt far-right groups linking Covid-19 to 5G". The Guardian. 12 April 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  9. ^ "How does fake news of 5G and COVID-19 spread worldwide?". www.medicalnewstoday.com. 22 January 2021. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  10. ^ Sallam, Malik; Dababseh, Deema; Yaseen, Alaa; Al-Haidar, Ayat; Taim, Duaa; Eid, Huda; Ababneh, Nidaa A.; Bakri, Faris G.; Mahafzah, Azmi (3 December 2020). "COVID-19 misinformation: Mere harmless delusions or much more? A knowledge and attitude cross-sectional study among the general public residing in Jordan". PLOS ONE. 15 (12): e0243264. Bibcode:2020PLoSO..1543264S. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0243264. PMC 7714217. PMID 33270783.
  11. ^ a b Downing, Joseph; Tuters, Marc; Knight, Peter; Ahmed, Wasim (11 June 2020). "Four experts investigate how the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory began". The Conversation. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  12. ^ Destiny, Tchéhouali. "Conspiracy theories about 5G networks have skyrocketed since COVID-19". The Conversation.
  13. ^ "I heard that the new 5G technology can cause cancer. Is this true?". www.cancer.org.au. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  14. ^ Meese, James; Frith, Jordan; Wilken, Rowan (November 2020). "COVID-19, 5G conspiracies and infrastructural futures". Media International Australia. 177 (1): 30–46. doi:10.1177/1329878X20952165. ISSN 1329-878X. PMC 7506181.
  15. ^ Heilweil, Rebecca (24 April 2020). "How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory went from fringe to mainstream". Vox. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  16. ^ "5G and other telecommunications do not affect the immune system". ARPANSA. 2 April 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  17. ^ "No, 5G Radio Waves Do Not Kill Birds. Then what kills?". Audubon. 14 January 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  18. ^ "Fact check: Does 5G kill bees?". The Star. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  19. ^ Schoolov, Katie (1 October 2021). "Why it's not possible for the Covid vaccines to contain a magnetic tracking chip that connects to 5G". CNBC. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  20. ^ "Four Myths About 5G Technology Debunked – fieldSENSE". Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  21. ^ a b Chiaraviglio, Luca; Bianchi, Giuseppe; Blefari-Melazzi, Nicola; Fiore, Marco (May 2020). "Will the Proliferation of 5G Base Stations Increase the Radio-Frequency "Pollution"?". 2020 IEEE 91st Vehicular Technology Conference (VTC2020-Spring). pp. 1–7. doi:10.1109/VTC2020-Spring48590.2020.9128888. hdl:2108/278682. ISBN 978-1-7281-5207-3. S2CID 208527663. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  22. ^ "Inverse Square Law – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". www.sciencedirect.com. Science Direct. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  23. ^ "Health Concerns May Slow Rollout of Super-Fast 5G Mobile Networks, Analyst Warns". Fortune. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  24. ^ "5G-coronavirus conspiracy theory spurs rash of telecom tower arson fires". Fortune. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  25. ^ Satariano, Adam; Alba, Davey (10 April 2020). "Burning Cell Towers, Out of Baseless Fear They Spread the Virus". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  26. ^ "Australian anti-vaxxers label Covid-19 a 'scam' and break distancing rules at anti-5G protests". The Guardian. Australian Associated Press. 30 May 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  27. ^ "Coronavirus: 90 attacks on phone masts reported during UK's lockdown". Sky News. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  28. ^ "5G conspiracy theories fuel attacks on telecoms workers". The Guardian. 7 May 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  29. ^ Thomas, Katelyn (7 May 2020). "Two arrested after two more Quebec cell towers go up in flames". Montreal. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  30. ^ "Dutch telecommunications towers damaged by 5G protestors: Telegraaf". Reuters. 11 April 2020.
  31. ^ "World EHS Day 16 June". 16 June 2022.
  32. ^ "COVID-19 Mythbusters – World Health Organization". www.who.int. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  33. ^ Togoh, Isabel. "Twitter Bans 5G Conspiracy Theorists From Sharing Harmful Misinformation". Forbes. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  34. ^ "Twitter starts putting fact-checking labels on tweets about 5G and COVID-19". TechCrunch. 9 June 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2021.