Corona Conspiracy: Ofcom fights the spread of 5G conspiracy theory

April 25, 2020

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Ofcom has launched an investigation into an interview with conspiracy theorist, David Icke, after receiving over 40 complaints that it falsely implied a connection between the implementation of 5G mobile networks and the spread of coronavirus.

What does this mean?

Although Icke did not explicitly mention 5G, he referred to an “electro-magnetic technologically generated soup of radiation toxicity”. In another interview, he stated that there “is a link between 5G and this health crisis”. Many share Icke’s belief in the conspiracy theory that radiation emitted by 5G base stations is accelerating the spread of coronavirus. 

Scientists have rejected the theory, insisting that there is no evidence that 5G poses any health risks. Moreover, coronavirus is spreading in UK cities without 5G coverage, and Iran, one of the most affected countries in the world, is yet to adopt the technology. Click here to read our recent article on the safety of 5G. 

Ofcom’s investigation prompted YouTube to announce stricter misinformation rules, which include a ban on content that falsely links 5G to coronavirus. Any such material will now be removed from the platform. The regulator is also assessing comments made by Eamonn Holmes. The ITV presenter criticised the media for shutting down the theory “when they don’t know it’s not true”.

What's the big picture effect?

This story highlights the importance of Ofcom’s role in preventing the spread of misinformation and holding broadcasters to account in the exercise of their responsibility to inform. The public is currently relying heavily on the media to stay informed about coronavirus. Therefore, the media has a responsibility to communicate accurate and substantiated information. In recent weeks, as this conspiracy theory has entered the mainstream media, we have seen the damaging effects of the spread of misinformation. It can cause widespread panic and distress. 

Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, described the theory as “dangerous nonsense”, referring to arson attacks on phone masts and abuse of telecoms workers, which are believed to be linked to the theory. Increased media coverage of unfounded conspiracy theories may also undermine public trust in official government guidance. The better-informed we are about coronavirus and its causes, symptoms and prevention, the better-equipped we will be to fight it. In summary, setting fire to vital infrastructure will not prevent the spread of coronavirus, but staying at home and washing your hands might.

Report written by Isobel Deane

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