5G Coronavirus: Conspiracy Theory Causes Attacks on Telephone Towers

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5G Coronavirus: Conspiracy Theory Causes Attacks on Telephone Towers
  • Coronavirus 5G: Conspiracy theory causes attacks on telephone towers.
  • Authorities are fighting conspiracy theories linking the new 5G mobile networks to the coronavirus pandemic that are causing dozens of arson attacks on cell towers.
  • European and US authorities are monitoring the situation closely because attacks may undermine communications when they are most needed to deal with the pandemic.

Security footage from a Dutch business park shows a man in a black cap pouring the contents of a white container into the base of a cell phone tower. As the man runs back to his Toyota to flee in the middle of the night, flames rise.

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It’s a scene repeated dozens of times in recent weeks in Europe, where authorities battle conspiracy theories linking new 5G mobile networks to the coronavirus pandemic, and inspiring arson attacks on cell towers.

5G coronavirus: conspiracy theory unleashes attacks on phone towers

An engineer checks the base of a ‘Proximus’ 5G tower that Peltheide, Belgium, set on fire on April 19, 2020. A false theory circulating on the networks saying that radiation from 5G towers is linked to COVID -19 (Photo by YORICK JANSENS / Belgian / AFP via Getty Images)

Conspiracy theories and popular beliefs about the alleged threat of wireless communication have long circulated, but the global spread of a virus at the same time that several countries were deploying fifth-generation wireless networks has fueled these false theories.

European and US authorities are monitoring the situation closely, concerned that the attacks may undermine communications when they are most needed to deal with the pandemic.

“I am absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted that people are acting against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency,” Stephen Powis, medical director of the National Health Service in England, said in early April.

5G coronavirus: conspiracy theory unleashes attacks on phone towers

FILE – In this Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020 photo, mobile phone masts are visible outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London. (AP Photo / Alastair Grant, File)

In Britain, 50 fires against cell towers and other equipment have been reported this month, leading to three arrests. There were also 80 attacks on telecommunications engineers while they were working, according to telecommunications industry group Mobile UK, making the country at the core of the attacks.

Videos and photos of the attacks are often spread with false comments about COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. 16 tower fires have been recorded in the Netherlands, as well as cases in Ireland, Cyprus and Belgium.

The trend received special attention in Britain when a tower handling voice and data traffic was attacked at a Birmingham field hospital for coronavirus patients.

“It is distressing enough that families cannot be at the bedside of loved ones who are seriously ill,” Nick Jeffery, CEO of mobile operator Vodafone UK, wrote on LinkedIn. “It is even more disturbing that even the small comfort of a video or phone call can now be negated by the selfish actions of a few deluded conspiracy theorists.”

5G coronavirus: conspiracy theory unleashes attacks on phone towers

Fake messages linking 5G and coronavirus have been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media. They can range from claims that the virus is a cover for the rollout of 5G to claims that new phone facilities have caused the virus.

There is no evidence that wireless communications, whether 5G or older, causes harm to the immune system, said Myrtill Simko, chief scientific officer at SciProof International in Sweden, which has researched the matter for decades.

The actual wave of theories dates back to January, when a Belgian doctor suggested there was a connection to COVID-19. Before, other versions circulated, most of them claiming that cell phone radiation caused cancer. Even now that the vast majority of adults use mobile devices on a daily basis, the National Cancer Institute has not found an increase in brain tumors.

5G coronavirus: conspiracy theory unleashes attacks on phone towers

The theories gained momentum in 2019 by appearing in Russian state media, helping to drive them into informal conversation in the United States, according to disinformation experts.

They have also been driven by celebrities such as actor Woody Harrelson, who shared a video claiming that people in China were tearing down a 5G tower. It was actually a Hong Kong “smart streetlight”, shot down in August by pro-democracy protesters fearing the Chinese surveillance system.

British host Eamonn Holmes gave credence to the theories on a talk show, earning him a rebuke from regulatory authorities.

“I want to be very clear,” European Commission spokesman Johannes Bahrke said on Friday as the number of fires rose. “There is no geographic or other correlation between the deployment of 5G and the virus outbreak.”

5G coronavirus: conspiracy theory unleashes attacks on phone towers

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