Anti 5G activists, believing cell phone use and COVID-19 are linked, destroy cell towers across the U.K.
LONDON — Officials in Europe and the U.S. are concerned by the rising number of conspiracy theorists who've begun to set fire to cellular radio towers across the United Kingdom.
ABC news reports that anti 5G activists who believe there is some sort of link between new 5G mobile networks and the coronavirus pandemic have been attempting to destroy cell towers and so far, at least 50 fires targeting cell towers and other equipment have been reported in Britain during the month of April.
Officials have arrested three individuals in connection with the incidents and are watching the situation closely as they believe the attacks could undermine vital telecommunications links at a time they’re most needed to deal with the pandemic.
“It’s heart-rending enough that families cannot be there at the bedside of loved ones who are critically ill,” Nick Jeffery, CEO of wireless carrier Vodafone UK, said on LinkedIn. “It’s even more upsetting that even the small solace of a phone or video call may now be denied them because of the selfish actions of a few deluded conspiracy theorists.”
False narratives around 5G and the coronavirus have been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media. They vary widely from claims that the coronavirus is a coverup for 5G deployment to those that say new 5G installations have created the virus.
“To be concerned that 5G is somehow driving the COVID-19 epidemic is just wrong,” Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health who chaired a World Health Organization committee that researched cell phone radiation and cancer. “I just don’t find any plausible way to link them.”
But anti-5G activists remain undeterred.
Susan Brinchman, director of the Center for Electrosmog Prevention, a nonprofit campaigning against “environmental electromagnetic pollution,” says that people have a right to be concerned about 5G and links to COVID-19. “The entire 5G infrastructure should be dismantled and turned off,” she said by email.
But there’s no evidence that wireless communications - whether 5G or earlier versions - harm the immune system, said Myrtill Simko, scientific director of SciProof International in Sweden, who has spent decades researching the matter.
The current wave of 5G theories dates back to January, when a Belgian doctor suggested a link to COVID-19. Older variations were circulating before that, mostly revolving around cellphone radiation causing cancer, spreading on Reddit forums, Facebook pages and YouTube channels. Even with daily wireless use among vast majority of adults, the National Cancer Institute has not seen an increase in brain tumors.
The theories gained momentum in 2019 from Russian state media outlets, which helped push them into U.S. domestic conversation, disinformation experts say.
Ryan Fox, who tracks disinformation as chief innovation officer at AI company Yonder, said he noticed an abnormal spike last year in mentions around 5G across Russian state media, with most of the narratives playing off people’s fears around 5G and whether it could cause cancer.
But world leaders say the rising suspicions of conspiracy theorists are flat-out wrong.
“I want to be very clear here," European Commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke said Friday, as the arson toll rose daily. “There is no geographic or any other correlation between the deployment of 5G and the outbreak of the virus.”