Conspiracy theories surrounding the notion that 5G technology is connected to the spread of coronavirus have peaked in the U.K. causing fiery attacks on cell towers.
Over the past 24 hours, Vodafone reported four of its cell towers were set on fire causing significant damage and outages to area customers. Vodafone U.K. CEO Nick Jeffery, said, “This is now a matter of national security. Police and counter terrorism authorities are investigating.”
EE, a British mobile network operator and internet service provider, also reported a tower fire and is working with local police to investigate the possibility of arson. “This site served thousands of people in the Birmingham area, providing vital 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity as it has done for many years,” an EE spokesperson told CNBC. “We will try to restore full coverage as quickly as possible, but the damage caused by the fire is significant.”
According to CNBC, the fiery attacks were sparked by increased social media posts claiming the virus originated in Wuhan, China because it deployed 5G networks last year. Social media has been a breeding ground for all sorts of conspiracy theories linked to the virus, but celebrities like U.K. actress and media personality Amanda Holden and former “Cheers” TV star Woody Harrelson have also been sharply criticized for their part in promoting false claims.
Holden reportedly posted a petition to ban 5G on Twitter and Harrelson posted about the negative effects of 5G on Instagram. Harrelson also took to social media with this post to his more than two million followers, stating: “A lot of my friends have been talking about the negative effects of 5G. My friend Camilla [sent] this to me today and though I haven’t fully vetted it I find it very interesting.”
Stephen Powis, national medical director for England, told CNBC: “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.” British minister Michael Gove also called the 5G conspiracy theories “dangerous nonsense.”
In response to the increase of false claims and damage to cell sites, a U.K. government spokesperson told CNBC that its culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, is scheduled to meet with social media companies this week to discuss the spread of disinformation about 5G and COVID-19.
Full Fact, a U.K. fact-checking charity, stated that coronavirus has spread to many areas across the globe, such as Iran, where 5G has not yet been deployed. In a report released last week, the group said, “There is no evidence to suggest that 5G has anything to do with COVID-19—the illness caused by the new coronavirus.”
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