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5G is the most recent update of the international standards which dictates mobile phone network technology. The upgrades will lead to faster download speeds and improved capacity for devices, which is important given the ever increasing number of connected devices.
Despite the scientific consensus being that 5G is safe, there is a large community of people who fear that the wide-scale implementation of 5G will cause something bad to happen, ranging from a public health crisis to a mind control program like MKULTRA. Complicating the conspiracy theory matter is the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, which happened to coincide with 5G network installations in several countries resulting in a completely wrong connection between coronavirus and 5G. Although adverse effects of the level described by many conspiracy loons are downright impossible, there is still some uncertainty around the possibility of smaller adverse health effects.
- See the more technical article on this topic at Wikipedia: 5G.
5G is a technology standard for cellular networks, the fifth generation of this standard. The basic difference between this and 4G, its predecessor, is improved bandwidth enabling faster downloads and the ability to support more internet connected devices, beyond just mobile phones. With increased usage and reliance on devices and equipment which have increasing draws on the internet are stressing existing 3G and 4G networks. However older mobile phones that predate the 5G standard will not be able to operate on 5G. Other distinct advantages about 5G is the ability to use 'beams' targeting the radio frequency electromagnetic field (RF EMF) to end users,[note 1] instead of having to simply blanket a wide area. This has a two-fold advantage, the ability to direct RF EMF directly to a intended user means the same frequency can be used by multiple users at once. The other advantage actually reduces exposure to the RF EMF, as 5G does not need to blanket a wide area in order to function, the way previous generations did.
5G and its impact on human health
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) laid out guidelines for exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, that limit power outputs to prevent harm. 5G operates electromagnetic fields in the 24GHz range, which is higher than existing networks that use 4GHz range. However the 2020 regulation changes account for this by requiring peak spatial power to remain well below a point where RF EMF could inflict harm to a human being by using a device or being in an area that has 5G coverage from a cell phone tower.
Exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields can cause harm… if you do something incredibly stupid, like try to hug a cell phone tower antenna… the vertical bars that are at the top of the tower, really high up in the air… for a long time. Then yeah, it could hurt you. The harm being heatstroke and burns to exposed tissue, again if you're exposed to an excessive amount of RF EMF by doing something incredibly stupid.
Your cell phone, and an antenna up in the air do not pose a risk to human health. So, yeah, ironically the people who are attacking 5G towers (see Conspiracies section below) are actually increasing the likelihood of harm to themselves by getting closer than intended to operational equipment, but they are still at far greater risk of harm from either falling from an aerial platform, dropping the mast on their head, or hitting themselves with their own Molotov (we will now play the world's smallest violin).
Initially, conspiracy statements against 5G were similar to that of mobile phone signals, radio signals and other sources of non-ionizing radiation: it causes various cancers, deep state. The usual sorts of things for anything new. InfoWars and Russia Today (RT) in particular pushed 5G conspiracies since early in 2016.
5G and COVID-19
On 22 January, 2020, an article was published in the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws with the headline "5G is levensgevaarlijk en niemand die het weet" ("5G is life-threatening, and no one knows it"). In this article, a connection was drawn between the construction of numerous 5G cell towers around Wuhan, China and the cluster of COVID-19 cases in this location, at the time 440 infected and 9 dead. Adding to this a general practitioner, Kris Van Kerckhoven stated, "I have not done a fact check, but it may be a link with current events”.
In a total failure of everyone in an oversight role at Het Laatste Nieuws, this was allowed to run in a regional edition of the print paper and posted to their website, before it was removed several hours later.
Some speculate this is the origins of the conspiracy theory tying 5G to coronavirus. Despite the paper coming to its senses pretty quick and pulling the online article, it had already spread to the anti-5G community. Its removal didn't really help because naturally it just gave 'proof' that the conspiracy was afoot.[note 2]
Move to mainstream
Initially this nonsense remained pretty self-contained within the anti-5G communities and conspiracy theorists and went largely unnoticed in mainstream. Then everyone's favorite inept social media robots kicked in: algorithms, which propelled the conspiracy into the mainstream.
The issue became a far greater problem, even compared to the bog-standard conspiracy theories that are already being amplified by the social media algorithm, when numerous celebrities with broad reach on social media like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram started talking about it… Jason Gardiner, Lucy Watston, Eamonn Holmes, Woody Harrelson, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., David Icke, Keri Hilson, Amanda Holden, Amir Khan all posted or made statements in support of the conspiracy. This appears to have acted like jet fuel to the fire. Naturally when called out for spreading such dangerous conspiracies, they turn to our favorite "defenses" and old friend, logical fallacies: Just asking questions, I haven't fact checked this and I'm not an expert.
British rapper M.I.A. has been very vocal in her opposition to 5G, prior to the conspiracy theory, but has been tweeting a fair bit about it, complaining about telecom workers carrying out their work. One tweet asserted a connection with a "prior pandemic" and "radio waves", before making a connection between 5G and coronavirus.
After allowing it to fester for several weeks and become a massive problem, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter finally started to kind-of take action against people and accounts spreading 5G-coronavirus conspiracy, nothing new for those lazy conglomerates, of course.
The ramifications of this misinformation has had real consequences. The UK has reported at least 50 mobile phone towers or equipment boxes have been set on fire in arson attacks since 1 February. In 4 days, Thursday, 2 April to Sunday, 5 April, at least 20 mobile phone masts were set on fire or otherwise vandalized. In addition to destruction of property, conspiracy theorists have taken to filming and harassing telecommunication workers. In the final two weeks of April, Openreach reported 20 incidents of workers being abused by members of the public, who were also filming them. Workers have reported having objects thrown at them, threats of violent assault and murder. Some workers have taken steps to try and disguise their vehicles and uniforms to avoid harassment on the job. In typical fashion, since these people are fucking idiots, most of the workers they're harassing have no involvement with the installation or maintenance of 5G equipment. Worse, the abuse has gone beyond verbal taunting and threats. An Openreach apprentice network engineer was spat on by an irate member of the public, and then fell ill with a suspected case of coronavirus.
In the Netherlands, police opened investigation into multiple arson attacks and attempted arson attacks on mobile phone towers and radio towers. "Fuck 5G" was found painted at the scene of one tower.
What is the conspiracy exactly
This is actually one of the bigger head scratchers of the whole thing. There isn't a conspiracy theory about 5G and coronavirus. There's more like a half dozen, at least:
- Coronavirus is real but amplified by 5G.
- Coronavirus is fake, and 5G is causing the sickness.
- Coronavirus is real, and 5G is helping spread it.
- 5G suppresses the immune system, making you more susceptible to catching coronavirus.
- Coronavirus is a distraction to enable the widespread installation of 5G.
- 5G causes the sickness, and the lockdowns are being done to give cover for the installation of more 5G.
- 5G will activate the RFID chips in the vaccines and open the portal to the Doom Dimension, or whatever.
- Coronavirus “viruses "talk to each other" when making decisions about infecting a host”, which 5G is facilitating.
And that's not including the other non-coronavirus related conspiracy theories about 5G like it causes cancer, Bill Gates, the New World Order. In fact, just like for QAnon, a similar non sequitur tornado of a map has been created (under the name "deep state mapping project") that attempted to map and connect not only many of the usual subjects in the conspiracy world to 5G (such as the Rockefeller Foundation), but also many oddball subjects as well (such as the National Cancer Act of 1971.)
This creates a wack-a-mole problem for trying to 'disprove' the theories, because the wide variety of theories makes it easy to move the goalposts for theorists, while making it challenging for officials and experts to disprove theories by having too many to deal with and contradictory ones.
Just about every organization involved with telecommunications or non-ionizing radiation has come forward to dispel these claims, even the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has released a statement trying to calm concerns about 5G.
As mentioned briefly above, coronavirus was not the origin of concerns and conspiracy about 5G. Fear-mongering about it started way back in 2016.
- 5G Kill Grid — Apparently 5G affects cells in our bodies via Voltage-Gated Calcium Channel (VGCC) Activation, via its electromagnetic fields.[note 3]
- It's killing the birds.
- The California wildfires in November 2018 were a punishment for California failing to roll out 5G.
- Causes cancer, nosebleeds and learning disabilities.
- Unspecified military experimentation.
- Harms "Meditation concentration" and "fogs the mind".
- It's a plan to impliment a Chinese style "social credit system" (which even experts on China can't truly pinpoint what that entails).
- It kills bugs.
There are actual valid concerns with the roll out of 5G, however these are actually related to the complicated ways that frequencies and the signals on them interact with each other… You know, actual science and not made up bullshit. So, naturally nobody's really paying much attention to these.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA and the United States Navy have all expressed concerns about the Federal Communications Commission's auction of the 24.25GHz to 25.25GHz band spectrum.
NOAA's predictions about the matter are rather grim: basically a loss of 77% of data gathered via passive microwave samples, if the FCC's plan is implemented. This would dump our weather forecasting abilities back into the 1980s level of effectiveness. Communities could receive 2-3 fewer days warning to prepare for hurricanes, and the projected storm paths may become less accurate than they currently are.
Ajit Pai, chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission, told Congress that NOAA was wrong. Specifically he cited that microwave links operating just under 23.8GHz not causing interference, a 250MHz separation between 23.8 and 24.25GHz bands and 5G being "beamforming", describing it as "sort of a rifle shot, if you will, instead of a shotgun blast of 5G spectrum."
Oh, and it gets worse: future plans call for the auctioning of more band spectra in proximity to the bands used for rain and snow (36-37GHz), atmospheric temperature (50.2-50.4GHz) and clouds (80-90GHz).
Additionally, the problem is global, with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) agreeing to relaxed standards that enraged the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). These standards allow for a buffer of -33 decibels watts, until 1 Sept. 2027, and -39 decibels after that. This is far below the -55 decibels desired by the WMO and -42 requested by European regulators, but above the United States' -20 decibels. A joint study by NOAA and NASA indicated a minimum of -52.4 decibels was required to avoid interference with meteorological data.
Global Positioning Systems
Ligado, the company vying for the band spectrum, responded, including the line "Can it really be true that our military operations are vulnerable to a 10-watt lightbulb?" However, it seems they don't understand the inverse-square law. Even a low power signal can cause interference. Further, 2011 testing discovered that GPS signals can be disrupted by transmissions on the ground.
It should shock none of you that these concerns were ignored by the FCC, and the plan was approved. The Department of Defense and Department of Transportation issued a joint letter condemning the move.
AT&T 5G E
So, one of the least important controversies was this nonsense where AT&T just decided that their existing 4G network was 5G. In more detail, they updated their mobile phones to change the icon that appeared when a phone was in an area with 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE), so it would show '5G E' and when they finally get actual 5G, the icon will show '5G+'. Shockingly, AT&T's competitors didn't particularly care for the advertisements where AT&T claimed it offered 5G service that was really 4G LTE. In May 2020, AT&T agreed to stop using the phrase "5G Evolution" in advertisements, after the National Advertising Division ruled against AT&T and recommended the ads be discontinued. However they would keep using the '5G E' icon.
Although 5G is most certainly quite safe (if not incredibly safe), there are still some concerns. For instance, there is credible evidence that wavelengths used by even the existing cell phone technologies can be harmful, but only in excess. It is also worth noting that other studies have also raised some concerns that the EMF radiation emitted by 5G technologies could potentially have some adverse health effects, including the alteration of gene expression, cell proliferation, and protein synthesis. However, all of this is still fairly uncertain, and if anything, most credible reviews and studies suggest that a good solution would be merely revising existing EMF exposure limits, rather than scrapping and recalling the technology as a whole.
5G requires massive infrastructure upgrades, something that Chinese company Huawei Technologies Group and ZTE Corporation positioned themselves to get a sizable share of the market, as two of the five main providers of 5G infrastructure components. However, concerns were raised by the United States about the companies' ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the opportunity to spy on foreign nations via their phone network equipment. The Trump Administration approached several countries, including Canada, Belgium, Italy, Germany and the UK, discouraging them from using Huawei and ZTE in their new networks.
On May 15, 2019, President Trump signed an executive order that banned US companies from using equipment made by firms that pose a national security risk, which notably targeted Huawei and ZTE Corporation. The order was extended by Trump on 13 May, 2020 for another year.
However, early May 2020, the United States Department of Commerce drafted a new rule that would allow US companies to work with Huawei in standards bodies. The reason was pretty simple, the US was being left behind in development of 5G standards.
British intelligence agencies disputed concerns raised to the British government by the Trump Administration about the possibility of China spying via Huawei equipment in their 5G network.
The UK ultimately decided to allow limited use of Huawei equipment in the country's 5G network, limiting it to 35% of the outer parts of the network, like radio masts. Additionally, prohibiting the company's technology from being used in the core of the network, or in areas in close proximity to military and nuclear installations. This forced two companies to make changes to their 5G equipment, due to the fact that over 35% of their already installed equipment was made by Huawei. Mick Mulvaney said that allowing Huawei equipment into the UK 5G network would have "a direct and dramatic impact" on the US sharing intelligence with the UK.
Furthermore, there was a craze of setting fire to 5G towers and at time when public money was not growing off trees (or masts). Criminals who overnight seem to have become radiaton scientists seem to be the cause. This has been taken up by various right wing groups and even more hippie leaning type folk too. None of which have credible evidence that 5G harms human beings.
- Someone making a call on a cell phone, for example.
- Translated, per Bing, from Dutch. "Article deleted. Says enough again."
- Some versions of this conspiracy theory specify high radiation soundwaves.
- Air navigation, Identification friend or foe (IFF), missile and aircraft telemetry. You know, a bunch of pretty important shit.
- International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). icnirp.org. 5G - Radiofrequency - RF EMF.
- Schraer, Rachel. Lawrie, Eleanor. BBC. 15 April, 2020. Coronavirus: Scientists brand 5G claims 'complete rubbish'.
- Temperton, James. Wired. 6 April, 2020. How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory tore through the internet.
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU). December 2019. 5G - Fifth generation of mobile technologies.
- Gallagher, Ryan. Bloomberg. 9 April, 2020. 5G Virus Conspiracy Theory Fueled by Coordinated Effort.
- Artikel verwijderd. Zegt weer genoeg by @NWOforum (11:28 PM - 1 Feb 2020) Twitter (archived from 23 May 2020 07:27:28 UTC).
- @NWOforum. Twitter. 1 February, 2020. Tweet Archived. (Archived 22 April, 2020).
- Bradley, Laura. The Daily Beast. 6 April, 2020. Celebrities Are Spreading a Wacky Coronavirus 5G Conspiracy and They Need to Stop.
- Eamonn Holmes responds to complaints over handling of Covid-19 5G claims: The ITV presenter says that to suggest a connection between Covid-19 and 5G ‘would be wrong and could be dangerous’ by Jim Waterson (14 April, 2020) The Guardian.
- Quinn, Ben. The Guardian. 12 April, 2020. Facebook acts to halt far-right groups linking Covid-19 to 5G.
- Kelion, Leo. BBC. 7 April, 2020. Coronavirus: YouTube tightens rules after David Icke 5G interview.
- . 23 April, 2020. Coronavirus: Twitter bans incitement to attack 5G towers.
- Waterson, Jim. Hern, Alex. The Guardian. 6 April, 2020. At least 20 UK phone masts vandalised over false 5G coronavirus claims.
- Temperton, James. Wired. 7 May, 2020. The 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory just took a really dark turn.
- BBC. 23 April, 2020. Coronavirus: 'Murder threats' to telecoms engineers over 5G.
- Waterson, Jim. The Guardian. 3 April, 2020. Broadband engineers threatened due to 5G coronavirus conspiracies.
- Newmark, Zack. 'NL Times. 11 April, 2020. Five telecom towers torched in possible 5G-conspiracy arson protest.
- Full Fact. 31 March, 2020. 5G is not accelerating the spread of the new coronavirus.
- Deepstatemappingproject.com, archived on 2020 May 26
- Waterson, Jim. Hern, Alex. The Guardian. 7 April, 2020. How false claims about 5G health risks spread into the mainstream.
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU). 5G Covid-19 Statement.
- Weiss, Sabrina. Wired. 12 June, 2019. 5G health risks are the internet's new favourite conspiracy theory.
- 5G Cell Kill Grid - AnyCalculator.com
- No, 5G Radio Waves Do Not Kill Birds by Steve Rousseau (14 Jan, 2020) Audobon
- No evidence that 5G tech causes cancer, killed birds, or invented in Israel (11:06 | 20th August 2019 GMT) Africa Check
- Brodkin, Jon. Ars Technica. 5 May, 2019. 5G likely to mess with weather forecasts, but FCC auctions spectrum anyway
- Witze, Alexandra. Nature. 22 November, 2019. Global 5G wireless deal threatens weather forecasts
- Brodkin, Jon. Ars Technica. 13 June, 2019. Ajit Pai says NOAA and NASA are wrong about 5G harming weather forecasts
- Miller, Eric. Wired. 17 June, 2019. 5G Networks Could Throw Weather Forecasting Into Chaos
- Gallagher, Sean. Ars Technica. 11 November, 2019. DOD joins fight against 5G spectrum proposal, citing risks to GPS
- Brodkin, Jon. Ars Technica. 20 April, 2020. FCC approves 5G network despite military saying it will harm GPS
- Erwin, Sandra. SpaceNews. 18 April, 2020. DoD issues new rebuke of FCC’s decision to allow Ligado 5G network
- Amadeo, Ron. Ars Technica. 7 January, 2019. AT&T decides 4G is now “5G,” starts issuing icon-changing software updates
- Brodkin, Jon. Ars Technica. 8 February, 2019. AT&T sued by Sprint, must defend decision to tell users that 4G is “5G E”
- Brodkin, Jon. Ars Technica. 21 May, 2019. AT&T still refuses to kill misleading 5GE network icon for 4G service
- Kelion, Leo. BBC. 28 January, 2020. Huawei set for limited role in UK 5G networks.
- Sabbagh, Dan. The Guardian. 19 February, 2020. US ‘very concerned’ over Huawei’s role in UK 5G network.
- Reuters. 6 March, 2020. Top U.S. envoy presses Canada over Huawei role in 5G network: officials.
- Emmott, Robin. Reuters. 5 February, 2019. U.S. warns European allies not to use Chinese gear for 5G networks.
- Chen, Yawen. Lee, Se Young. Reuters. 16 May, 2019. China slams U.S. blacklisting of Huawei as trade tensions rise.
- Shepardson, David. Freifeld, Karen. Reuters. 13 May, 2020. Trump extends U.S. telecom supply chain order aimed at Huawei, ZTE.
- Freifeld, Karen. Prentice, Chris. Reuters. 6 May, 2020. Exclusive: U.S. drafts rule to allow Huawei and U.S. firms to work together on 5G standards - sources.
- Sabbagh, Dan. The Guardian. 14 January, 2020. UK rebuffs US presentation on Huawei security risks.