Call for social media platforms to act on 5G mast conspiracy theory

Harriet Sherwood
Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

The government is to hold talks with social media platforms after mobile phone masts in Birmingham, Merseyside and Belfast were set on fire amid a widely shared conspiracy theory linking 5G networks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Broadband engineers have also faced physical and verbal threats by people who believe that radiation from 5G masts causes health risks and lowers people’s immune systems.

The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, revealed he had received threats after he dismissed the theory as “bizarre”.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove branded the conspiracy theories “dangerous nonsense”.

And the NHS director, Stephen Powis, added: “The 5G story is complete and utter rubbish. It is nonsense – the worst kind of fake news.

“The reality is that the mobile phone networks are absolutely critical to all of us, particularly in a time when we are asking people to stay at home and not see relatives and friends.

The 5G theory is absolute, utter rubbish and I can’t condemn it in terms stronger than that.

Stephen Powis, NHS director

“But, in particular, those are also the phone networks used by our emergency services and our health workers and 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, utter rubbish and I can’t condemn it in terms stronger than that.”

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, is to hold talks with platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter “to hammer this message home”, the source said.

Celebrities including the singer Anne-Marie, have helped spread the theory on social media. Amanda Holden, a judge on Britain’s Got Talent, shared a link to an online petition claiming the symptoms of Covid-19 were caused by residing near a 5G mast. The petition has now been removed.

Emergency services were called out to deal with blazes at masts in Sparkhill, Birmingham, and on the Antrim Road in north Belfast last Thursday, and at Melling, Merseyside, last Friday.

Videos of the arson attacks were posted on social media.