An unfounded conspiracy theory that radiation from 5G towers causes coronavirus and cancer is spreading across social media and messaging apps, resulting in widespread panic about the next-generation technology.
A petition to block the UK government from rolling out 5G across the country has received more than 110,000 signatures, assisted by celebrities sharing it with their followers.
The Change.org petition uses pseudo-science to support false claims about the health risks of 5G, which allegedly range from cancer to coronavirus.
The petition’s founder, who goes by the name Delroy Chin, writes that radiation emitted from 5G towers sucks the oxygen out of the atmosphere and disrupts the regular functioning of the human body.
“Our bodies are 85 per cent water and the shortwave radiation increases the breakdown in our natural biology causing cancers and other serious health conditions,” it states.
“Symptoms of 5G exposure include respiratory problems, flu-like symptoms (temperature rises, fever, headaches), pneumonia. Very much like the effects of the coronavirus.”
TV personality Amanda Holden was among those pushing the scare-mongering petition, posting it to Twitter where she has close to 2 million followers.
The claims prompted a warning to British broadcasters from media regulator Ofcom to not push baseless conspiracy theories, as they have “the potential to undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information” during the public health crisis.
Numerous scientists have dismissed the concerns about the fifth-generation wireless technology. They note that, like 4G and other iterations of cellular communications systems, 5G uses an electromagnetic waveform that emits non-ionising radiations.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) states on its website that “a large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
It is not the first coronavirus-related conspiracy that has gained traction online in recent weeks. In March, the French government was forced to issue a statement that using cocaine would not protect people against the deadly virus.
It came in response to a series of viral memes, which showed doctored news headlines praising the class A drugs effectiveness at “killing” coronavirus.
France’s Ministry of Solidarity and Health tweeted: “No, cocaine does not protect against Covid-19. It’s an addictive drug that causes serious adverse and harmful effects.”
The spread of disinformation across online platforms like YouTube and WhatsApp has been described by the WHO as an “infodemic”.
In an effort to combat it, the UN agency launched an online tool to make official and verified information about the pandemic accessible to billions of people.
There have been more than 1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, resulting in just over 55,000 deaths.
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