Facebook, YouTube up fight against 5G, COVID-19 falsehoods

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Amid the alarming increase of claims linking the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to fifth-generation (5G) technology, some social media platforms are stepping up to deal with the baseless claims.

This comes as many of the stories based on the perceived links have been doing the rounds and going viral on social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok.

Before the arson attacks on 5G infrastructure in the UK at the weekend, YouTube announced it will reduce the amount of content showing fake theories about the links between 5G and the coronavirus pandemic to its users, according to The Guardian.

The video-sharing platform, however, will still allow video content that is “simply conspiratorial about 5G mobile communications networks, without mentioning coronavirus”, reports the British daily newspaper.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, says it is also taking action against coronavirus and 5G fake news and misinformation.

“We are taking aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platforms and connect people to accurate information about coronavirus. Under our existing policies against harmful misinformation, we are starting to remove false claims which link COVID-19 to 5G technology and could lead to physical harm,” says Facebook in an e-mailed statement to ITWeb.

Furthermore, the social media network says it continues to work closely together with government and industry stakeholders to take action against fake news and misinformation.

Dispelling 5G rumours

Despite ongoing expert opinion dispelling claims that fifth-generation technology is the reason for the coronavirus, there are still some who believe the connection to be true.

Across the globe, over 1.3 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, with the number of deaths standing at over 75 000 and recoveries at more than 290 000, at the time of publication.

Locally, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 1 686, with the total number of COVID-19-related deaths reaching 12, so far.

In SA, anti-5G groups have been sharing false claims about 5G, setting up a petition to “Stop 5G rollout in Cape Town, SA, and while we're at it, the world”.

The activists say they are concerned about the possibility of 5G radio waves, which emanate from land and in space, producing harmful radiation which they claim causes brain cancer and headaches, with the latest concern being COVID-19.

South African health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has refuted these claims, explaining that 5G is a technology, and coronavirus is an organic infection that is based on a living viral agent.

His comments were reiterated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Dr Albert Lysko during a Webinar hosted by National Electronics Media Institute of SA last week.

Lysko said: “There is no scientific evidence proving the correlation between 5G radiation and COVID-19.The connection is only based entirely on conspiracy theories.

“The more we invest into developing human capital, 4IR [fourth industrial revolution] innovations and technologies, the more we will build our digital economy.”

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) yesterday also weighed in, saying it continues to follow debates and pronouncements that purport to link the spread of COVID-19 to the deployment of 5G technologies.

“The authority wishes to state that the development of standards for International Mobile Telecommunication for 2020 (IMT-2020) and beyond – commercially known as 5G – is currently under way at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); and that ICASA contributes and participates in these processes.

“South Africa adheres to the standards prescribed by both the ITU and the World Health Organisation, with the former’s focus being primarily for the regulation of radio frequency electromagnetic field emissions.

“The authority confirms that type-approved electronic communications facilities provided in the country adhere to the prescribed standards and that there is no evidence that they pose any health risks to the country and/or its citizens.”

On the global front, communications industry body, the GSMA, states: “The telecoms industry is working around the clock to keep vital health, education and emergency services online, businesses running, and friends and families connected.

“It is deplorable that critical communications infrastructure is being attacked based on outright mistruths. We urge everyone to trust health authorities and rest assured communications technology is safe. There is no link between 5G and COVID-19.”

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