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While there’s zero factual support for a conspiracy theory linking COVID-19 to 5G cellular technology — and the scientific community has concluded 5G is safe — the U.K. government was forced today to explicitly address the topic after arsonists burned down a cell tower and used Facebook to encourage others to follow suit.

“There is absolutely no credible evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus,” the U.K.’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) tweeted, noting that “inaccurate information” about 5G was being spread online. The DCMS pointed to research debunking the supposed link between 5G and COVID-19, as well as links discussing the actual cause of infection — direct exposure to coronavirus particles spread through physical contact.

Trade association Mobile UK joined the DCMS to issue an extended statement on the topic, calling the conspiracy theory “baseless” and “not grounded in accepted scientific theory.” Representing all of the U.K.’s major carriers, Mobile UK noted that “some people are also abusing our key workers and making threats to damage infrastructure,” a particular concern given the need for a working cellular network as the pandemic strains already fragile work-from-home connections and emergency services.

Researchers last year blamed a Russian disinformation campaign for stoking concerns about the safety of 5G technologies, noting that bad science and irrational fear were fueling U.S. and international protests. Despite multiple public warnings that the disinformation campaign was ongoing, and official rebuttals from both governments and scientists, “concerned citizens” have continued to use social media to spread 5G conspiracy theories, most recently leveraging the coronavirus outbreak to agitate for acts of cell tower destruction.

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U.K.-based publications have described the arsonists as “idiots,” blaming the Birmingham tower fire on a celebrity-spread claim that COVID-19 wasn’t impacting Africa because of the lack of 5G there. As coronavirus tracking maps show, there are in fact thousands of COVID-19 cases in Africa, as well as in South America, Mexico, and numerous other countries without 5G infrastructure.

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