What a strange, twisted time we’re all experiencing at the moment. It would be bad enough if all we had to contend with was a novel virus, a lockdown and a projected 12 to 18-month wait for a vaccine. Unfortunately, there are those among us who are indulging in the spread of misinformation.
President Donald Trump himself touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential miracle cure and a queried whether disinfectant could be injected into COVID-19 patients as a “cleaning.” The general public has its own baseless conspiracy theories that range from the novel coronavirus being created in a laboratory for weaponization to it being a method of population control. However, one of the most enduring and insidious ideas is that the pandemic was caused and spread by the introduction of 5G networks.
This conspiracy theory revolves around the widespread rollout of the 5th generation of cellular networks worldwide. It’s not a light undertaking, either: As this resource illustrates, wireless technology manufacturers in the US are planning to invest upwards of $275 billion to take advantage of the advanced connectivity it will offer and could result in up to $500 billion in economic growth.
Spread by Radio Waves
However, some have used the coincidental timing of this rollout to place unfounded blame for the current pandemic. It began in January, when a Belgian doctor erroneously linked the technology to the virus. Since then, the rumor has spread that the virus can either be transmitted through radio waves or that the radiation from 5G cell towers suppresses our immune response. Celebrities like Woody Harrelson and John Cusack have served to perpetuate the idea among an already scared public.
This idea of COVID-19 being spread by radio waves or that 5G causes radiation immunosuppression has no factual basis. The truth, as confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), is that the coronavirus cannot travel on radio waves or mobile networks, and that the energy waves in the form of nonionizing radiation from 5G cell towers are so small that they aren’t strong enough to affect the immune system. To suggest that 5G is responsible for our current pandemic is not only false but actively dangerous.
In any pandemic scenario, the key to an effective response is clear messaging. People need to understand what the threat is, and what the medically mandated instructions are. By offering up 5G as a cause of infection among other baseless concepts, the clarity of useful messaging is being muddied. Focus gets pulled from the genuine steps the public can take to stay safe.
There are also more direct consequences. Particularly in the UK, 5G engineers have experienced everything from accusations that their work was directly killing people to verbal and physical abuse. Arsonists have also targeted 5G cellular towers, including one that was providing vital services to the newly opened NHS Nightingale hospital in Birmingham — a facility expressly intended to treat COVID-19 patients — cutting off families from final goodbyes.
Perpetuating rumors about 5G’s links to the coronavirus is hazardous to the public’s ability to protect itself with reliable information, infrastructure workers’ ability to operate safely and can have a detrimental effect upon emergency services that are already struggling to cope. What, then, can be done to halt this misinformation?
How to Curb the Spread?
One way to combat misinformation is with a commitment to disseminate factual information. The 5G conspiracy has had some presence in mainstream media, but the greatest tool for its spread has been social media. Each of us can take steps to improve the information people are receiving and sharing.
First of all, we need to help people understand the nature of 5G. The last few decades have seen our cellular services evolve from the analog systems of 1G to the digital 3G and 4G networks that helped make wireless internet practical. As noted, 5G is expected to offer 10 times the bandwidth of our current networks. However, rather than being a potential threat, it is expected to be no more harmful than other sources of electromagnetic radiation, such as visible light.
Staying calm and reasonable is important. We get it, this kind of false messaging is frustrating, but you won’t achieve much through anger. When posting information, present a calm and clear outlook. Don’t apportion blame or use intellectual snobbery. Anxiety in a pandemic is only natural, and taking anything other than reasonable actions may trigger negative responses.
Utilizing social media with a visual approach can be a useful way to provide succinct information. Think infographics, artwork, videos. However, always make certain that you are only spreading advice from credible sources, such as the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At a time where we feel like we have no control, some of us go looking for someone or something to blame, a scapegoat as a focus for our ire. The 5G conspiracy theory not only serves to pull focus from truly useful information, but actively damages our efforts to fight this pandemic. We each have a responsibility to do our due diligence to ensure we’re receiving credible information and to quell the spread of misinformation by calmly and reasonably presenting the facts.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.