WTF?! Conspiracy theories that link 5G to the spread of novel coronavirus may have been debunked, but many people still believe it. The claim has led to cell towers being destroyed, and some vigilantes have gone even further: spitting in the face of an engineer, who is now suspected of having contracted Covid-19.
Claims that 5G cell towers somehow cause Covid-19 or damage humans’ immune systems have been spreading on social media for a few months now, despite being called biologically impossible by scientists. People’s willingness to believe the theory has been encouraged by YouTube videos, Change.org petitions, and celebrities who endorse it, including Woody Harrelson and boxer Amir Khan.
Convinced of the connection, several UK citizens have destroyed cell towers, some of which weren’t even 5G masts, by setting them alight. As reported by Wired, the conspiracists have turned their anger toward phone engineers, none of whom are even involved in the installation of 5G networks.
In addition to facing threats of violence and intimidation, engineers working for Openreach, which maintains the UK’s digital networks, have had to endure physical attacks. One London-based apprentice was spat at in the face by a member of the public. He is now in self-isolation after becoming very ill with what is suspected to be Covid-19. Another Openreach engineer was rushed to hospital after being stabbed.
“We’ve seen a worrying surge in incidents where our engineers are being subjected to mindless verbal abuse or intimidation linked to the bogus 5G theory. It really needs to stop,” Catherine Colloms, managing director of corporate affairs and brand at Openreach, told Wired.
Social media has been trying to fight back against the wave of 5G/coronavirus posts. Twitter has broadened its guidance on ‘unverified claims,’ while YouTube has clamped down on conspiracy theory videos. The latter removed a channel belonging to David Icke, who said any Covid-19 vaccine would include "nanotechnology microchips" that could control humans, and that Bill Gates should be jailed. Icke has also had his Facebook page removed. But despite these efforts, the claims continue to gain traction.