Twitter launches coronavirus fact-checks for people who search for 5G conspiracy theories

Users will receive a prompt from the UK government with a link to accurate information

Adam Smith
Wednesday 06 May 2020 13:11 BST
They deleted several tweets from Mr Clarke
They deleted several tweets from Mr Clarke

In its attempt to stop the spread of misinformation and disinformation on its platform, Twitter has partnered with the government to provide a fact-check prompt when people search for information related to 5G.

Before, and during, the coronavirus pandemic, 5G was the root of much misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is incorrect information accidentally shared, while disinformation is false data shared with malicious intent to deceive the audience.

In the UK, this has been most prominent as more than 30 acts of arson and vandalism has taken place against wireless towers by people under the false impression that the signal is related to the spread of the coronavirus.

Now, when people on the social media site search for 5G-related information, they will receive a pop-up stating that “The UK government has said there is no evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus (COVID-19)” with a link to further information below.

This is not the first time the company has had to step in to direct people from coronavirus misinformation. The company said it has “broadened our guidance on unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity” and will now actively remove misleading and potentially harmful content. However, Twitter has said it will not remove all content falsely-linking 5G to the coronavirus

(Credit: Twitter

In statements, Katy Minshall, Head of Government, Public Policy and Philanthropy, at Twitter UK said: ''We continue our focus on connecting people with authoritative information regarding Covid-19. Today, through a partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), we launched a new on-service prompt in the UK that will direct people to a Government webpage with credible, factual and verified information relating to 5G.

“Our partnerships throughout this pandemic, have allowed us to take proactive steps in bringing people the information most relevant, and useful for them and we're happy to add this update today, in collaboration with DCMS in the UK.''

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden also said: “We have set up a new counter disinformation unit and are working with the social media platforms to make sure the public has access to reliable information during the coronavirus crisis and to give us a much better picture of where disinformation is spreading. This move by Twitter directing users to official Government advice is a step in the right direction as part of this work.“

Twitter is not the only social media platform to be taking action against coronavirus and 5G misinformation. Facebook, and its image-sharing company Instagram, has said it is taking “aggressive steps” to remove stories linking coronavirus and 5G – but only if they will cause physical harm.

However, questions remain over whether these actions are beneficial. Many of those who share, or seek, conspiracy theories linking 5G and the coronavirus are unlikely to trust the government, and as such as fact-checking provided the government may not convince them.

5G is in no way related to the coronavirus. The coronavirus has spread in countries that do not yet have 5G connectivity such as Iran and Malaysia. Moreover, 5G signals in the UK are built over the existing 4G signals that have existed in the country for nearly a decade, which did not cause a major pandemic.

Wired reports that the conspiracy theory originated from a “scientifically-baseless claim” that spread through Facebook groups and via YouTube videos. It has since been spread by numerous celebrities to audiences of millions.

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