The GSMA, an industry organisation representing over more than 750 mobile operators globally, has called on “internet giants, content providers and social media platforms” to help tackle a “misinformation campaign” linking 5G to the coronavirus outbreak, after several mobile masts were set on fire around the UK over the weekend.
Numerous 5G conspiracies are rife on social media. Those linking the fifth generation of high speed wireless technology with the COVID-19 outbreak are particularly prevalent, despite the emergence of the virus in countries with no 5G infrastructure.
“The telecoms industry is working around the clock to keep vital health, education and emergency services online, businesses running, and friends and families connected,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. He added: “It is deplorable that critical communications infrastructure is being attacked based on outright mistruths.”
5G Conspiracies: Spate of Arson Attacks
The comments came after arson attacks on mobile infrastructure in Liverpool, Birmingham and Belfast, that are believed to be linked to the popularity of the conspiracies. The mayor of Liverpool said he had had threats over 5G rollout and Ofcom has warned that it is watching how broadcasters report on the subject.
(Numerous celebrities have shared conspiracy-related material).
The GSMA notes in its release on the subject that an “independent international watchdog [last week] confirmed there is no risk of harm to people, including children, from exposure to radio frequencies from mobile networks, including 5G.”
In its findings, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection actually updated guidance and “made a number of changes… that will ensure that 5G is not able to cause harm. These include the addition of whole body average restrictions for frequencies >6 GHz, restrictions for brief (<6 minutes) exposures for frequencies >400 MHz, the reduction of the averaging area for frequencies >6 GHz (which reduces the maximum exposure that a person can have).”
Radiofrequency EMFs can generate heat in the body which needs to be kept to a “safe level” the paper notes. “[However] there is a dearth of radiofrequency exposure research using sufficient power to cause heat-induced health effects. Of particular
note is that although exposures (and resultant temperature rises) have occasionally been shown to cause severe harm, the literature lacks concomitant evidence of the lowest exposures required to cause harm. For very low exposure levels… there is
extensive evidence that the amount of heat generated is not sufficient to cause harm.”
The 5G conspiracies have reached the point that even cabinet ministers are speaking out on them: “On the point about the 5G masts,” Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove said during an April 4 coronavirus briefing. “The story somehow got about that they play a role in the spread of the disease, that is just nonsense.”
National Medical Director of NHS England Stephen Powis described it as “the worst kind of fake news,” adding: “Those are also the phone networks that are used by our emergency services and our health workers. I am 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.”
The blisteringly quick connectivity that 5G allows could be used to massively ramp up industry automation, augmented reality, and cloud-based gaming, its advocates say. Wide deployment has been stymied by its capex-intensive nature and ongoing debate between industry and regulators over the infrastructure cost burden.