Numerous online conspiracy theories have misleadingly linked cell towers to the coronavirus pandemic and now people in the UK are setting 5G phone masts on fire. According to The BBC, at least three 5G towers were set alight within the last week, and fire and police services were called to extinguish the flames.
5G towers in Britain burned down
The UK spokesperson for Vodafone confirmed through an interview with The Verge that four of its cell towers were targeted in the past 24 hours. Investigations have now been launched to identify how the 5G towers caught fire. One tower in Birmingham that is operated by EE and does not provide 5G services was still set on fire.
A spokesperson for EE stated that the company's engineers are now assessing the cause of the fire at one of their towers in Birmingham. If the investigation states that it was arson, the company will work to help West Midlands police identify the culprit. The site served thousands of people in the Birmingham area, providing important 2G, 3G, and 4G connectivity as it has done for years. EE will try to restore full coverage as fast as possible, according to the spokesperson, but the damage caused by the fire is massive so it will take some time.
5G and the coronavirus pandemic
Conspiracy theories and rumors over the connection between 5G connections and the coronavirus have been spread through social media networks. Numerous groups exist on Nextdoor and Facebook where thousands of members repeat false, misleading and inaccurate claims that 5G is harmful can cause the spread of the virus.
One theory claims that the coronavirus originated in Wuhan because the city had been rolling out 5G. It has now spread to other cities that are also using 5G. These false claims neglect to point out that a highly contagious virus would spread more in densely populated cities with access to 5G, and that the virus has hit countries like Japan and Iran where 5G is not in use yet.
There is no scientific evidence that links the 5G connection to the coronavirus pandemic and there is also no evidence that it has any negative health effects to 5G. This still has not stopped the spread of wild conspiracy theories from spreading, and some people are even harassing workers laying fiber optic cables for 5G installations.
The operators in the UK now believe that the attacks are undermining the nation's security. The UK CEO of Vodafone, Nick Jeffery, stated that he is saddened that vandals have carried out a series of arson attacks on mobile phone masts during the pandemic. He states that it is a matter of national security. Counter-terrorism and police authorities are now investigating the incidents.
The arson attacks caused significant damage that will affect services in Birmingham, just as the NHS is relying on mobile networks. According to the NHS director Stephen Powis, he is outraged that people would be taking action against the infrastructure that is needed to tackle the global emergency.
The UK government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport or DCMS branded the conspiracy theories "crackpot" and noted that the department received reports of criminal damage to phone masts and abuse of telecoms engineers. DCMS is now calling on social media networks to control the spread of misinformation.
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