The Fake News Effect: The Impact of COVID-19 on 5G
Don't waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.
― Paulo Coelho
To be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great.
― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Background[edit | edit source]
In 2019, a great number of people were infected by pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Experts investigated, finding its cause was a new betacoronavirus and called it COVID-19. This virus spreads out swiftly via droplets so humans get infected at a high rate and there is no specific medication accessible in hospitals to treat it. There are countries that have thousands of people who have died. The number of patients at the hospital has reached an all-time high, and ambulances have been running around the clock every day. Because it is a horrifying virus that dramatically alters people’s lives, governments around the world have ordered citizens to wear masks and stay home for over a year. Many people have lost their jobs and some young people who do not have savings have had a hard time getting through this period. In the United States, for example, the unemployment rate climbed steadily from the end of 2019 through mid 2020:
- In April 2020, the unemployment rate reached 14.8%—the highest rate observed since data collection began in 1948. In April 2021, unemployment remained higher (6.1%) than it had been in February 2020 (3.5%). The labor force participation rate declined to 60.2% in April 2020—a level not seen since the early 1970s—then began a partial recovery in May 2020. The labor force participation rate was 61.7% in April 2021, 1.7 percentage points below the level in January 2020, before the pandemic and the economic recession.
Many are irritated, bewildered, and concerned about what causes the virus. In response to the uncertainty brought by the epidemic, a bizarre conspiracy hypothesis has emerged on social media about Fifth Generation (5G) technology aiding in the spread of the coronavirus, which has been shared widely by Internet users.
How have some people reacted to the theory that COVID-19 is caused by 5G?[edit | edit source]
Some individuals have bought into this fake theory and even committed atrocities to oppose 5G. In the United Kingdom, the conspiracy was peddled by conspiracy theorists and celebrities on social media, so there were many supporters of the hypothesis who set telephone poles on fire and attacked telecommunication engineers constructing fiber-optic connections. In addition, many demonstrators marched in Australia, even preventing telecommuting workers from finishing their jobs. Why is this so? Because some people have been swayed by bad faith actors with ulterior objectives into thinking that a group of world leaders have orchestrated the pandemic to take control of the global economy. This conspiracy theory is called "The Great Reset", and it presents COVID-19 as a biological weapon that is being distributed in part via 5G cell towers as part of the depopulation plan.
Why do people believe in this conspiracy?[edit | edit source]
There are three reasons: 1) people who reject 5G also reject 4G, 3G, and other wireless technologies, 2) the rise in the number of unemployed people has resulted in an increase in the number of people doing nothing, and 3) the dissemination of unverified information on social media. There have been conspiracy theories about the supposed harm of 5G wireless waves since the technology began gaining public attention. The basic idea is that 5G wireless signals use “additional higher frequency electromagnetic waves in addition to low and medium band frequencies used in previous cellular networks,"  such as 4G or 3G, and they are therefore dangerous to humans and animals. The origin story for this theory was presented in March 2020 in a YouTube video lecture by Dr. Thomas Cowan, who is an American doctor who is at present on disciplinary probation. In the video, Dr. Thomas proposes that all viruses in human history are caused by electromagnetic waves, specifically mentioning that the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic coincided with the introduction of radio at a global scale. Dr. Thomas believes the coronavirus is a type of cellular poisoning caused by the lowering of the body’s immunity by electromagnetic fields. People who live near a 5G base station are immune compromised by waves emitted by the base station, making them more vulnerable to the virus. As evidence, he cites the lack of outbreaks in Africa because there is no 5G in that continent yet. However, in the article “Does 5G Cause or Spread the Coronavirus? Here’s What Experts Say,” the author points out that the lower bands, encompassing everything from AM radio to cell phones to microwave ovens, are categorized as nonionizing radiation, and do not harm DNA directly. They have long been considered harmless except for potentially heating cells at close range. Moreover, leading national authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maintain that there is little to no health risk from using mobile phones given the safety limits already in place.
There is no relationship between COVID-19 and 5G[edit | edit source]
A statement by the worldwide radiation watchdog the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which issued revised recommendations for 5G frequency deployment, confirmed that the frequencies at which 5G would be implemented are safe:
- ICNIRP has just released new guidelines for exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, and we considered all possible adverse health effects. The only proven effect is that of heating of (parts of) the body, and the guidelines are set to such a low level that this will not occur if they are observed. Adverse health effects resulting from effects on the immune system have not been found and thus also cannot form a basis for exposure guidelines.
Moreover, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we must come into physical contact with the coronavirus to become sick because it is transmitted from human to human by tiny respiratory droplets which travel through the air through talking, breathing, and coughing. Because it is an electromagnetic wave, 5G cannot bring you into touch with the virus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States also replied to the theory with “5G technology does not cause Coronavirus". According to medical and scientific experts, like some other recent outbreaks, the novel coronavirus is most likely transmitted to humans by animals.
Advantages of 5G[edit | edit source]
The pandemic has actually encouraged the adoption of 5G. In the article “COVID-19 showed the importance of 5G for the economy and the environment,” Börje Ekholm points out that during the pandemic, 5G has an important role for the economy and the environment. The data shows that:
- In its first 5G Outlook Series report, the World Economic Forum highlighted several activities behind that increased usage: in healthcare, a 490% increase in telemedicine urgent care visits; in socialization a 75% increase in online gaming; and in retail, online transactions were up 74% globally. In the world of work, Ericsson’s Mobility Report showed 60% of white-collar workers increased their usage of video calls.
- Despite the sudden and unprecedented changes in traffic patterns and demand, the networks performed well, with operators generally providing enough network performance. This strong performance was reflected in users’ perceptions, with 83% claiming ICT helped them a lot, in one way or another, to cope with lockdowns.
- Without the investments made in 4G and 5G, none of the uses including telemedicine, video calls and gaming could have been delivered to the extent seen through the pandemic. 
In addition, All of the applications place demands on today's networks that would quickly push them to their limits. The development of 5G has increased network use and facilitated companies' significant science and technology development. Therefore, the development of 5G technology has brought us advantages and convenience. The most important thing is that 5G has also enabled more new positions in society, and local groups have more job opportunities.
Conclusion[edit | edit source]
In conclusion, all evidence shows that COVID-19 is not caused by 5G. Rather, the pandemic has promoted the demand and created a larger market for 5G, accelerating its application and providing opportunities for its global implementation. As 5G consumers, people will benefit from this new technology, which includes connection speeds as fast as fiber, more stable connections, smoother streaming, and video calling with fewer buffering. When deciding whether or not to adopt something new, we should not rely on public opinion to determine if it is good or bad. This should be a lesson as to why we must stick to the scientific method of separating facts from fiction.
Comprehension questions[edit | edit source]
- How is 5G technology different from 4G and 3G? How did its difference cause some people to believe 5G was creating the pandemic?
- Who and what was harmed by this conspiracy theory?
- What real impact has 5G played in the epidemic?
Discussion questions[edit | edit source]
- What could be the reasons why people began to spread this conspiracy theory about COVID-19 and 5G? What could be the reasons other people support this theory and share it?
- Describe a conspiracy theory that you would never share with your social network and explain why you would not share it.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Kaitlyn Tiffany, “Something in the Air.” The Atlantic. This article examines in depth why the 5G fear is nothing new, and why the fears are unfounded.
- James Meese, Jordan Frith, and Rowan Wilken, “COVID-19, 5G conspiracies and infrastructural futures.” Media International Australia. August 27, 2020. This article also gives background information on the fears of 5G but argues that we must “look beyond conspiracy theories to a larger set of [geopolitical and economic] concerns.”
References[edit | edit source]
- Congressional Research Service. “Unemployment Rates During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Congressional Research Service, 20 May 2020. Updated June 15 2021.
- Heilweil, Rebecca. “How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory went from fringe to mainstream.” VOX, 24 April 2020. Accessed 18 May 2021.
- Bibby, Paul. “Protesters stop work on 5G installation at Mullumbimby.” Echo, 22 April 2020. Accessed 18 May 2021.
- Goodman, Jack, and Flora Carmichael. “The coronavirus pandemic 'Great Reset' theory and a false vaccine claim debunked.” BBC News, 22 November 2020. Accessed 28 May 2021.
- Wikipedia contributors. "5G." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 May. 2021. Web. 31 May. 2021.
- Hamilton, Isobel Asher. “Here's what we know about the bizarre coronavirus 5G conspiracy theory that is leading people to set mobile phone masts on fire.” Business Insider, 6 April 2020. Accessed 18 May 2021.
- Ostrov, Barbara Feder. “Conspiracy theory doctor surrenders medical license.” CAlmatters, 8 Feb 2021, Accessed 28 May 2021.
- Nicholson, Katie, Jason Ho, and Jeff Yates. “Viral video claiming 5G caused pandemic is easily debunked.” CBC News March 23, 2020
- Pressman, Aaron. “Does 5G cause or spread the coronavirus? Here’s what experts say.” Fortune, 7 April 2020. Accessed 19 May 2021.
- Shultz, Alex. “Here's the Bonkers Conspiracy Theory Blaming 5G for the Coronavirus.” GQ, 7 April 2020. Accessed 18 May 2021.
- Mpoyo, Carol Fouke. “Are 5G Networks Spreading the Coronavirus?” United Church of Christ 6 July 2020. Accessed 20 May 2021.
- Ekholm, Börje. “COVID-19 showed the importance of 5G for the economy and the environment.” Weforum, 13 January 2021. Accessed 10 May 2021.