It’s tragic but not totally unexpected that uncertain and desperate times give rise to the strangest theories and logic humanity is capable of. Political theories aside, one of the latest ideas to pop up over the Internet and social media is how 5G networks are to blame for the spread or even the cause of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Twitter is now banning posts related to such conspiracy theories and misleading content if they encourage people to do acts of violence or vandalism.
More tech-informed people might laugh at the insinuation of 5G’s role in the current pandemic but human history has been full of such lines of thinking. It wasn’t too long ago when cellphones were blamed for causing cancer, giving rise to a short-lived market of anti-radiation stickers for phones. When fear and uncertainty coincides with any new technology or invention, you can be sure that there will be people who will connect the two as cause and effect.
It would be laughable if not for the actual dangers they lead to. In the UK, for example, people have been lead not only to believe in such conspiracy theories but to also act on them, setting fires to 5G towers or vandalizing property. And, as always, these messages are being spread like fire over social media.
Twitter is now taking action, citing its policies on safety and content. It is formally banning tweets that incite people into harmful activity that lead to damage, destruction, or vandalism of property, especially 5G equipment. To be clear, 5G is specifically mentioned but the policy also covers any unverified claim that could lead to widespread panic or large-scale disorder.
It has reported banning over 2,230 such misleading and potentially harmful posts so far. It has also challenged more than 3.4 million accounts that its automated systems believe are manipulating COVID-19 discussions for harmful intent.