Social Media

Twitter Begins Fact-checking 5G, Coronavirus Conspiracy Posts


By Catherine Sbeglia

Twitter has announced that it will be adding fact-checking labels to tweets that suggest a link between 5G mobile networks and the coronavirus, after a rash of conspiracy theories that tie 5G networks to COVID-19. Conspiracy theories claiming that 5G networks supposedly exacerbate the spread of the virus or actually cause it, have spread like wildfire — and in some cases, resulted in literal fires.

Rather than deleting or hiding these tweets, the social media platform will display them with a message that reads, “Get the facts on Covid-19” that when clicked on, brings users to a page titled “No, 5G isn’t causing coronavirus.” The page debunks the conspiracy theory by linking to credible websites and resources.

This announcement follows a Twitter pledge in May to fact-check coronavirus misinformation.

“We’re prioritizing the removal of COVID-19 content when it has a call to action that could potentially cause harm,’ a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement sent to CNBC. “As we’ve said previously, we will not take enforcement action on every Tweet that contains incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19.”

A specific conspiracy theory is that 5G radiation is lowering human immune defenses, making people more vulnerable to the virus — a theory that associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, Dr. Simon Clarke has called “complete rubbish.”

Further, a panel of international experts announced last month that, after extensive research, 5G was found to be safe for the public. The International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the Germany-based scientific body in charge of setting limits on exposure to radiation, called for new guidelines for mmWave 5G, the first guideline update in more than 20 years. Those guidelines, however, only required minor updates to make them fit for 5G, emphasizing that 5G technology does not pose much more of threat to human than previous generations of cellular technology.

These theories have real and dangerous consequences. By May, there were a reported 77 attacks on U.K. phone masts and cell tower employees, with more popping up in other countries like the Netherlands and the U.S.

Twitter, Apple, YouTube, Spotify and Facebook have all come under fire for their failure to squelch the spread of bogus 5G claims by allowing content to be uploaded to their platforms, giving conspiracy theorists like David Icke a public platform to pass on his message to millions of people online via podcasts and interviews.

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