Dismantling the 5G Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory
YouTube and cellular service providers are trying to stop its spread
A distressingly popular conspiracy theory about Covid-19 suggests that it is caused by exposure to 5G internet. This is, of course, completely false: Covid-19 is known to be caused by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which originated in an animal host and spread to humans.
The theory, however, is becoming widespread, in part because it has been shared on social media by celebrities like the actor Woody Harrelson, the singers Keri Hilson and M.I.A., and boxer Amir Khan. In a now-deleted tweet, Hilson shared a video in which a controversial U.S. doctor named Thomas Cowan, who is on disciplinary probation with the Medical Board of California, makes claims about 5G and coronavirus that are easily scientifically debunked.
Generally, the theory suggests that the symptoms of coronavirus are actually not caused by the virus but by exposure to the frequencies required to deploy 5G internet. As NBC News has pointed out, “Many of the claims center on the idea that the virus originated in Wuhan because the Chinese city had deployed 5G networks last year.” However, countries that do not have 5G networks, such as Iran, are also experiencing epidemics.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the conspiracy theory suggesting that 5G made humans sick was already embraced by the alternative media. In 2019, the New York Times reported that this rumor was in part spread by a Russian media network called RT America to discredit America’s 5G technology. Now, this conspiracy theory has merged with dangerous and completely scientifically unsupported speculation about the origins of Covid-19, even though its zoonotic origin has been made very clear by scientists around the world.
Belief in the new theory has led some people in Britain to burn down 5G cell towers. In an effort to stop the spread of misinformation, YouTube is actively removing videos conspiratorially linking 5G and coronavirus (however, it is not removing conspiratorial videos that are only about 5G).
Expert fact-checks debunking all aspects of the 5G conspiracy theory can be found below: