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Claims that 5G technology is somehow responsible for Covid-19 or can suppress people’s immune systems have been spreading on social media for months. In the UK, believers set at least seven cell towers alight last week, leading to condemnation from the country’s politicians. The culture secretary ordered social media firms to clamp down on the conspiracy theories, and while Facebook said it was already removing groups encouraging attacks on masts, YouTube, which has never been one for deleting such videos, said it would only reduce their recommendations.
The BBC reports that the Google-owned firm changed its stance following a live-streamed interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke yesterday, in which he said there was “a link between 5G and this health crisis.” When asked for his reaction to the cell tower arson, he said: "If 5G continues and reaches where they want to take it, human life as we know it is over... so people have to make a decision."
Icke, best known for his belief that the world is run by giant shape-shifting lizards, also claimed any Covid-19 vaccine would include "nanotechnology microchips" that could control humans. He added that Bill Gates, who is helping fund vaccine research, should be jailed.
YouTube said it already removes videos that promote medically unsubstantiated methods to prevent the novel coronavirus. “Now any content that disputes the existence or transmission of Covid-19, as described by the WHO and local health authorities is in violation of YouTube policies,” a spokeswoman told the BBC. “This includes conspiracy theories which claim that the symptoms are caused by 5G.”
Repeat offenders will be prevented from using YouTube’s Live tool, face being demonetized, and could even have their channel deleted if they continue to break the rules.
Around 65,000 people watched the now-removed David Icke interview. YouTube said it is allowing the host to keep the earnings generated via the Super Chats tool, but would be giving its cut of the proceeds to charity, and the channel is now under review.
Fact-checking charity Full Fact writes that there is no evidence linking 5G networks to the novel coronavirus, something scientists have called biologically impossible, but conspiracy fans will say: “that’s what they want you to believe.”