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5G conspiracy may be the work of a government: researcher

Paul Brislen, Editor. 15 April 2020, 7:59 am

With attacks on cellphone towers hitting New Zealand as well as UK and even European cities, attention is turning to why 5G network deployment is being linked with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Last year, the New York Times reported on a seemingly coordinated attack on 5G apparently coming out of Russia, with a combination of fake user accounts on social media, mainstream media coverage suggesting health affects linked to the use of electro-magnetic frequencies (EMF) and a bot army promoting anti-5G groups on Facebook and Reddit in particular.

Now evidence is emerging that the current move to blame 5G for the COVID outbreak is also being driven by state-level actors.

A researcher at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar, who specializes in online disinformation networks, says he has analysed 22,000 twitter interactions that mention both 5G and 'coronoa' and found "inauthentic activity" in a large number of accounts, according to a report in Qatar-based news agency Al Jazeera.

Marc Owen Jones says the campaign is similar to Russia's Internet Research Agency, which was behind a disinformation campaign during the 2016 US presidential campaign, but he hasn't drawn any conclusions yet as to whether Russia is involved or indeed whether it is actually the work of a foreign power trying to destabilise or confuse the situation.

In New Zealand the recent attacks on towers haven't been directly linked to 5G opponents and the Facebook community of anti-5G believers appears to have lost a lot of steam in recent months. The combination of factual information being released by the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor and the Ministry of Health as well as the terrible measles outbreak in Samoa and the move to vaccinate the entire country, seem to have taken some of the sting out of the anti-science stance and the number of active shares and comments on various 5G pages have dropped off significantly. 

But social media companies still fail to police their content effectively for such obvious and damaging content. While some sites are clearly set up to make money off the fears, others simply take an anti-science stance from the outset, linking to news about chemtrails, anti-vaccine research and much more.

A Facebook video of a tower being set alight in Auckland remained active for some time after being reported to the social media giant, allowing it to be shared hundreds of times before the account was suspended. Anti-5G pages on Facebook are allowed to classify themselves as "educational" and continue to link health effects with a technology that has been proven safe without any recourse from the publisher. Twitter still has no way to report content that is obviously false and a simple search for 5G via Tweetdeck turns up thousands of accounts sharing misinformation and outright falsehoods.

Meanwhile estimates suggest the number of 5G users around the world will continue to grow as telcos look to invest in 5G deployment, and the call for mobile and fixed wireless services to be delivered in rural and remote parts of the country, and around the world, increases as lockdown continues and the need for better connectivity becomes apparent.


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