What you need to know
- Conspiracy theories linking 5G and COVID-19 have spread like wildfire on YouTube and other social platforms.
- Google will now remove all conspiracy videos drawing a link between the two.
- These videos have resulted in threats of assault and acts of arson against moile engineers.
5G conspiracy theories have been popular even before the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic but they've taken a new life since then. Conspiracy theories spuriously linking the two have grown in popularity on YouTube and other platforms, even resulting in threats and assaults aimed at mobile engineers in the UK. Arson attacks have been carried out targeting 5G masts in an attempt to stop the perceived threat.
There's just one problem. There's no link between 5G and coronavirus. In the words of the UK's Minister of the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, it's "just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well."
YouTube is now taking a stand against these videos. The video-sharing service will no longer permit videos that link coronavirus and 5G together, opting to now remove them instead of its previous laissez-faire stance. It'll still allow 5G conspiracy theories, but just not those that link it to COVID-19.
"We also have clear policies that prohibit videos promoting medically unsubstantiated methods to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us," a YouTube spokesperson told The Guardian, "We have also begun reducing recommendations of borderline content such as conspiracy theories related to 5G and coronavirus, that could misinform users in harmful ways."
When asked to respond to the theory, the National Medical Director of NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis condemned it in the strongest terms (via The Register) said:
The 5G story is complete and utter rubbish, it's nonsense, it's the worst kind of fake news. The reality is that the mobile phone networks are absolutely critical to all of us, particularly in a time when we are asking people to stay at home and to not see relatives and friends. In particular, those are also the phone networks that are used by our emergency services and our health workers and I'm absolutely outraged absolutely disgusted that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency. It is absolute and utter rubbish, and I can't condemn it in stronger terms than that.