UK authorities and the mobile industry condemned arson attacks on masts and abuse of network engineers, crimes apparently inspired by social media posts falsely claiming a link between 5G and Covid-19 (coronavirus).
Over the weekend several pieces of infrastructure were set alight and abuse aimed at engineers, in some cases preventing essential network maintenance being conducted. Incidents were reported in the West Midlands and North-West of England.
The attacks follow the wide circulation of fake evidence on social media outlining a range of claims about the relation of the Covid-19 pandemic to 5G signals.
In statements, the UK’s four mobile operators, the GSMA and the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) slammed the attacks, slating the apparent evidence being circulated as completely fabricated.
The DCMS said the criminal damage and abuse was “apparently inspired by crackpot conspiracy theories circulating online” and perpetrators would be prosecuted. It also called on social media companies to take “much swifter action to stop nonsense spreading on their platforms which encourages such acts”.
GSMA director general Mats Granryd added: “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.”
In a joint statement, EE, Vodafone UK, O2 UK and 3 UK sought to reassure the public claims being made were baseless, and highlighted the important role of mobile and fixed networks during the ongoing pandemic and lockdown measures.
A number of scientists have also taken to social media to rubbish the claims and UK independent fact-checking website Full Fact published a public information document on the issue.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back