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There’s another contagion doing the rounds, it’s not coronavirus, but misinformation. And one Bristol Facebook page with thousands of likes is spreading claims that 5G is connected to the pandemic.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was triggered by a pathogen developed by the German army. The US military developed AIDS, testing it on prison inmates in exchange for early release. And the Black Death in the 14th Century which ravaged Europe? Well, the Jews of course poisoned drinking wells to gain world control. 

These are just some of the contagious myths which spread during pandemics.

A theory to have gained steam in the age of coronavirus is that 5G networks are to blame for the outbreak. Only last week, 5G masts were set alight in Birmingham, Liverpool and Merseyside, with a video of a fire surfacing online claiming a link between mobile technology and coronavirus. On Sunday, a Bristol reddit thread was removed which asked users: ‘Has 5G arrived in Bristol yet? And when it does, anyone wanna burn the towers?’ The Cable has identified other posts on social media in Bristol supporting and inciting direct action against mobile phone masts. 

Screenshot from Bristol Residents Against 5G Facebook page

Contrary to the thousands of Facebook posts and shaky videos that are doing the rounds in Bristol and beyond, there is no scientific evidence that 5G, the next generation of wireless technology, is harmful to humans. Person-to-person contact spreads viruses, not radio waves. And animals are the source of coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization and other public health bodies.

On social media, where anyone and everyone can be an expert, posts are being widely shared claiming that coronavirus is not a virus but a cover for the rollout of 5G and the restriction of civil liberties. This hasn’t just taken place on the fringes of the internet. Celebrities such as actor Woody Harrelson, singer Keri Hilson and Lee Ryan from the pop band Blue have also linked 5G to the pandemic.

The conspiracy theory has seen a strange online convergence of communities. Far-right activists, left-field scientists and people from the outskirts of environmental movements are claiming coronavirus is a bio-engineered military weapon, and that wireless radiation emitted from 5G masts causes illness and weakens immune systems. 

Locally, the Bristol Residents Against 5G Technology page on Facebook has over 5,000 likes and regularly pumps out posts linking 5G to coronavirus. An affiliated private discussion group by the same name has close to 500 members.  Many of the posts are framed in apocalyptic terms of a “worldwide movement” battling the “old paradigm” to protect humanity from wireless radiation. In a shocking recent post on the page, student suicides at Bristol University were attributed to the rollout of the technology.

The Bristol 5G Facebook page has had one of its posts flagged as ‘partially false information’ by Facebook’s fact-checking service, which was launched to combat fake news. But it appears that posts on the page are being carefully worded to avoid detection by Facebook’s algorithms. Coronavirus, for example, has repeatedly been abbreviated or misspelt as ‘C V’ or ‘C-o-r-o-n-a’.

Screenshot from Bristol Residents Against 5G Facebook page

Nationally, fact-checking organisations have scrambled to counter the spread of disinformation amid coronavirus. Last Thursday, media regulator OFCOM warned broadcasters that they face sanctions if they give airtime to false health advice, after a Sussex radio station broadcast a woman claiming, without evidence, that 5G and coronavirus were connected. 

Screenshot from Bristol Residents Against 5G Facebook page

Public Health England has reported there’s no “convincing evidence” that exposure to wireless radiation emitted from 5G masts below the guidelines is harmful to humans. 

However, this type of evidence, coupled with declining trust in mainstream media, only steels the resolve of disbelievers as proof of a cover up by the “deep state” –  a conspiracy theory of a hidden state controlling elected governments.

Screenshot from Bristol Residents Against 5G Facebook page

Users on the Bristol Facebook group have claimed that the shutdown of schools in Bristol is in fact a ruse for 5G masts to be set up on their grounds. Another theory shared by the page is that the Chinese city of Wuhan was the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic because it was the first city in China to have 5G networks installed. Again, this is unfounded. As reported by independent fact checkers Full Fact, other major Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai had 5G before it was introduced in Wuhan. This theory also fails to explain how coronavirus spread to countries without 5G, including Japan and Iran. 

The Bristol page refers to “thousands of revered doctors/professors and scientists” strongly opposing the roll out of the technology. To bolster it’s claims, it regularly cites the self-published research of one retired scientist, Martin Pall, formerly of Washington State University. Pall has built an international online following for his varied and novel research on the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome and tinnitus to the risks of wifi and tanning salons.

Screenshot from Bristol Residents Against 5G Facebook page

People are believing a myth, at the expense of a shocking reality

The Cable found that Sidika Petterson is one of several admins of the Bristol Facebook page and is linked to the Bristol section of the website, stop5g.co.uk. Petterson says she is “very involved with the Bristol Stop 5G Campaign”. According to Linkedin, Petterson is a marketing consultant and runs a ‘Digital Marketing Agency specialising in alternative health and personal development niches’. 

Anti-5G advocates come in a range of shapes and sizes. Some intentionally spread disinformation, such as far-right groups harnessing fear to further their political agendas. But for the most part, people are engaging in this conspiracy theory because they are scared. Many are distrustful of our public and private institutions, which often operate in secrecy and abuse their office. People are rightly concerned about the climate crisis, destruction of biodiversity, global inequality and public health, and they are searching for answers. But while scrutinising government and corporations, they risk nodding through a myth – the link between 5G and coronavirus.

Concern about 5G does however predate coronavirus. In recent years a small but dedicated band of anti-5G activists in Bristol and across the UK had already been campaigning against the technology. In 2019, Brighton and Hove, Totnes, Glastonbury and Frome councils halted the erection of 5G masts until more evidence is published about the technology’s emissions. These councils joined other cities internationally to have halted the roll out, including Brussels. While harm to humans has not been proven, these campaigners maintain  that towns and cities should operate on the precautionary basis that 5G is harmful, until decisively proven otherwise. 

Mayor Marvin Rees and Bristol City Council have also been on the receiving end of email campaigns, petitions, and protests stationed outside of City Hall calling for the same measures in Bristol.

Although not all people who are concerned with 5G have linked it to coronavirus, fears caused by the pandemic may see the community of people drawn to the conspiracy theory grow. After all, in the face of crisis and complexity, humans crave basic stories to explain the world around them, even if it means discarding evidence pointing to the contrary. “The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple,” writes psychologist Daniel Kahneman, “[They] are concrete rather than abstract; assign a larger role to talent, stupidity and intentions than to luck; and focus on a few striking events that happened rather than on the countless events that failed to happen.”

Screenshot from Bristol Residents Against 5G Facebook page

The unfortunate reality that the 5G conspiracy distracts us from is that creeping authoritarianism in fact is a reality in the age of coronavirus. The pandemic has been used as an excuse by regimes, including Victor Orban’s Hungarian government and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, to suspend democracy and expand state surveillance. 

Closer to home, the crisis we face is one that is out in the open and, as a result of political decisions, not shrouded in secrecy. The chronic underfunding of the NHS, and an economy built on precarious work and housing, is now buckling under the pressure of the pandemic, revealing the damage wrought by austerity. So, as we must cast aside conspiratorial distractions and adhere to public health guidance to curb the spread of coronavirus, we must also scrutinise attempts to curtail our rights and call out the stark reality we face.

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  • Rhiannon Craft says:

    I agree that conspiracy theories are harmful… i also agree that it’s very unlikely that covid is linked to 5g… however the statement that there is no evidence that it is bad for you health is totally wrong. I have found many articles through my university library expressing concerns about it. but there are also a lot of good things to be gained from it…e.g. mobile health care systems. think its like a lot of tech…always radiation, social problems, hacking/cyber crime…but also loads of benefits e.g. ability to keep in touch with loved ones…coordinating ppowerful social movements,…sharing knowledge. same as some medicines… ibuprofen is a fab anti inflammatory…but savage on your stomach lining if youre not careful. its not entirely good or bad. but it shouldnt be reported thsat “there is no evidence that it is bad for health” when there actually is…. needs more research and to be implemented very carefully if it goes ahead i personally feel.

    • Laura says:

      If there are no risks with 5g why has Brussels put a halt on it, stating their people will not be Guinea pigs. Slovenia has also put a halt on it. Donald Trump warned a lot of countries not to use Huawei technology in their 5g infrastructure due to risks. Australia banned the use of Huawei in 2018 and Boris Johnson has also mentioned halting the use of Huawei. It’s such a shame so many journalists are being told what to write these days instead of being able to do their own research

      • Dicky Mint says:

        The risks associated with Huawei had nothing to do with public health but national security. Huawei is a Chinese company and the worry is the Chinese government will embed code in their Communications devices that would allow them to monitor traffic or worse still close a country’s entire mobile/internet infrastructure down in the event of conflict. From a military perspective that is very high risk.

  • M Hudson says:

    I’m shocked at the way this article was written. With no links”, this is a legitimate campaigning group. Yes they are scared, scared only for public health, set up to warn of untested technology and long before covid19. I feel are misrepresented here.

  • BillyBob says:

    The revenue gained by the government for 5g licenses are eye watering, for this reason alone there is no appetite for any research into the effects on humans. This ‘lockdown’ (a prison term) gives the ideal opportunity to install the equipment on the quiet. Believe what you like but the more you look the more you will find!

  • Paul says:

    Shocking that you are using groups that are rightly concerned by untested 5G in this story

    250 scientists also have raised same issues as well as Glastonbury, Frome, Counties in Ireland Totnes Devon, Russia, Geneva and many other places towns city’s and country’s including Switzerland – Some Swiss regions have suspended the use of new mobile sites constructed for 5G due to health concerns which after testing, didn’t go ahead due to safety

    Also you might like to note Iran has 5 G that started in March 2020 Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said on that Iran had carried out all preparations needed for launching the 5G network ready for March 2020 launch
    Irancell signed a contract with Ericsson to get help for developing its 5G network. This time Irancell plans to launch the 5G network simultaneously with the rest of the world. “We are aiming to keep the pace with the international operators. Iran will not be left behind again,” said Irancell’s CEO, Alireza Dezfouli during the event at Irancell HQ in Tehran. Director of Ericsson for Iran and Turkey, Ralf Pichler, was also present at the event. He mentioned that 5G technology will be available starting March 2020

    Also Japan has 5 G Wireless carrier SoftBank Corp. said Thursday it will launch 5G services on March 2020 becoming Japan’s first major mobile carrier to release its plans for the superfast next-generation telecommunications service.

    This was found via a simple google search, you may want to parts of the article to reflect that

  • Craig says:

    Whoever wrote this article is biased and drinks the kool aid too much. Loads of proof that 5g is harmful to the ecosystem abounds, have a gander. As for mistrust, that’s what happens when we are constantly lied to. And by the way there are many “conspiracy theories” which have been found to be “true”. Don’t get upset when people think for themselves. And if people conflate things to make sense of what’s going on around us, understand that fear coupled with uncertainty and mistrust might actually find out what is going on instead of always being handed nonsense from Governments and mainstream media and made to sleep walk through life. Don’t forget, Galileo was called a nutter and looked what happened there. In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. And if u didn’t realise that we are in these various crises largely because we have allowed governments, organisations and business to do whatever they want without respect or regard for the environment or people, then maybe think about that. People are tired of being lorded over and being made to prove their worth for every little thing.

  • Eliza Bee says:

    The coronavirus is a virus. 5G is 5G. Both are health hazards. The Cable has actually published an article before about the lack of safety around 5G. The 5G campaign attracts conspiracy theorists, as many campaigns do, but the people leading the 5G campaign are the world experts in manmade radio frequency electromagnetic radiation – emeritus professors, the Canada and US Physicians for Safe Technology, and 100s of doctors and scientists who have seen the robust peer-reviewed research showing that 4G, 3G, WiFi, masts, devices, and – albeit to a less well known extent – high-frequency 5G microwaves. Shame on you, Cable, for not checking your facts properly and touting the industry falsehoods that this radiation is safe. It is not. That is why countries and towns are demanding bans.

  • Tereks Mela says:

    I’m looking at a post made in this group today. Someone has posted a picture of a lamp post with a photocell on top asking if it’s dodgy. He is assured that this is indeed a 5G transmitter and another reply offers “Message me mate I can send you something that will fix your problem and it can be done in a few mins”. I’m guessing he doesn’t mean blackout blinds.

    Not all posts to this group have such violence implied – but there is a sad lack of understanding of technology and robust science – but a huge appetite for lay correlation and consumption and spreading of conspiracy theories.

    Emboldened by casually tagging anything that supports their message with ‘1000s of Peer Reviewed papers’ and ‘hundreds of doctors and scientists have said’ – the claims in the posts on this group usually fall apart with the lightest of inspection.

    To her credit the admin of this group has said she doesn’t now want Covid 19 / 5G links to be posted – however this has not been effective – and the hysteria generated is whipping up vandalism and damage to the very networks that we are relying on most in these dark days.

    Great article – that has obviously triggered the Anti 4G 5G WiFi brigade – primarily because it makes good points in a reasoned way.

  • AmberLee says:

    Alon Aviram, are you aware that the term conspiracy theorist was created in the CIA’s think tanks to expose and stigmatise anyone who questioned the mainstream media’s coverage of the JFK shooting event and to essentially label them a communist loonie? It was used as a tool to silence, alienate and shame people and you and the Bristol Cable are playing those vary same psychological mind games. Why are you choosing to comply with and therefore condone – perhaps the biggest cover-up the world has ever known (yes, a conspiracy !) – that we are repeatedly told time and again and again and again and again and again and again – by the telecommunications industry that the microwave-radiation frequencies being emitted from our mobiles, our wifi and the mast at the end of our road – are freaking Safe?!!!!
    You need to do your homework man. Humanity desperately needs true, intelligent journalism. If you can’t serve the people, know that you are only serving the establishment.

    • matthew says:

      to quote Alon from the above article:

      “The unfortunate reality that the 5G conspiracy distracts us from is that creeping authoritarianism in fact is a reality in the age of coronavirus. The pandemic has been used as an excuse by regimes, including Victor Orban’s Hungarian government and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, to suspend democracy and expand state surveillance. “

  • Thomas says:

    The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything – Albert Einstein.

    …and by those ‘independent journalists’ (the unbearable irony!) who betray the common people as they eagerly bend over to assist the establishment fulfill their pre-ordained agenda.

    What part of history do you want to be on Alon Avriram?

    Thomas
    Redland, Bristol

  • B says:

    Thank you for your article…I believe the contrary now! And shame on you!!

  • Jamie Smith says:

    I had some respect for the Cable until now.. if I wanted to be spoonfed my journalism, I’d watch the BBC and not read this third rate claptrap.

  • David says:

    The worst thing about coronavirus is not the illness but the way we are observing closet nazis in our streets tutting at anyone enjoying themselves (they like being offended), and the totalitarian move to censor anything that isn’t deemed the official narrative. There is no free press anymore. Do not listen to it.

  • charlie boy says:

    The reason it is difficult is that we have been conditioned to laugh at conspiracy theories, and few people will risk public ridicule by advocating them. On the other hand, to endorse the accidental view is absurd. Almost all of history is an unbroken trail of one conspiracy after another. Conspiracies are the norm, not the exception.
    – G. Edward Griffin

  • Andy Frayne says:

    Here’s a repeat of the Kahneman quote:
    “The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple,” writes psychologist Daniel Kahneman, “[They] are concrete rather than abstract; assign a larger role to talent, stupidity and intentions than to luck; and focus on a few striking events that happened rather than on the countless events that failed to happen.”

    Wonder what Stephan Lewandowsky would make of that.

  • Dai Borthwick says:

    Sadly lost all respect for the Cable after this! Very disappointing!

  • Arlene. says:

    Is it really so incredible to believe that exposure to the sudden increases in (5G’s) electromagnetic radiation field on the general population -couldn’t create a mass ‘illness’ pandemic? That in fact our bodies ‘couldn’t cope’with the sudden stress of having GHz radiation hitting us at at all times, at billions of times a second? Have we lost sight or the ability of questioning anything that lies (lies) outside the carefully controlled media script?
    *****************************************
    Health – Immune system ‘attacked by mobile phones’
    Radiation from mobile phones can severely damage the human immune system, a scientist has claimed.Biologist Roger Coghill has long campaigned for health warnings to be attached to mobile phones, which he has already linked to headaches and memory loss.
    BBC 1998 article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/194065.stm

  • simon ganz says:

    man-made EMF’s are proven to be harmful by over 2000 peer reviewed scientific studies and therefore likely to exacerbate any other health conditions.

  • Chris Rae says:

    Bristol Cable: limited hangout

  • Dave says:

    Lets talk about facts here. FACTS. The 5G we gave today is called 5G-NSA or Non Stand-Alone. Think of it as a turbo charger for the existing 4g network. And it operates at 3500Mhz, which if you understand basic science means it has less power than the existing 4g networks at 2600/1800mhz. 5G has less penetrating power than 4g. There is no in-building 5G solution as it is not powerful enough to penetrate the walls. Or glass. And the high frequency that seems to be the ultimate bogeyman is less powerful. It gets stopped by the moisture in the air. Oh and even then all of this is NON-Ionising radiation, which I’m sure you know can only excite an electron within its ring rather than displacing it and having a noticeable effect on a cell (like say,. Say like the air, or the radon in ground. Or the exposure yet get every time you fly. But don’t worry you can wear you pendant to protect you from negative ions. Except that do emit ionising radiation and will kill you… https://www.mic.com/articles/132638/bad-news-those-popular-magnet-therapy-bands-are-secretly-sending-radiation-into-your-body. Have a nice day, stay indoors, look after each and stop worrying about 5g

  • Tomas says:

    I am sad to see that your paper has fallen into such journalistic decline. Reducing yourself to cheap tactics such as name calling. Naming people who are quite literally, fighting for the health rights of the people of Bristol …well, it’s freaking unforgivable. Hope a mast gets put up outside your house Alon – maybe then you’ll ‘understand’ what that page is all about.
    What kind of people are you?

  • Edwin Sanders says:

    To claimed 5G has no proven effects, negatively at that is absurd. Look up mm wave studies. I mean, do some research people you’re smarter than you think. History, it has a way of repeating itself. Just look at what happened in the world after releasing radio waves and radar. Now we release a new wave technology and yet again here we are. Coincidences bar only when you can’t prove something. You be the judge for yourself don’t let some foolish author of some foolish article make the decision on how things are going to affect you and the future generations that would have came from you

  • MartinCK says:

    What a cheap tactic to undo the year plus efforts of a page that wants to protect you and your family too Alon. Is investigative journalism truly dead? Look up 60 Ghz and its relation to oxygen, lungs and hypoxia. Proven physics. Proven biology. Try calling that a conspiracy theory. Seriously appaling article and attempt to publically shame a community group. The only shame you have inflicted is that upon your own paper.

  • michi says:

    F*ck that!
    All critical thought, analysis and discussion suppressed. This is worse than a chinese paper!!!! Opinion?!
    All media, it seems —– is owned/bought-out by big pharma, big TELECOM, big Ofcom and big bullshit.
    Bristol Cable – please remove the word ‘independent’ from all your pages.
    WHO do you work for? it aint the local people, that’s for sure.

  • KarenS says:

    I am really disappointed Bristol cable

    I used to look forward to picking up your paper at my local health food store

    the problem I see is that many doctors in the US (some in the UK) are also questioning the relationship of corona and 5G technology. Perhaps there is a true virus, but the symptoms of coronvirus also match those of oxygen deprivation and a toxic response to an external pollutant

    seeing as non-ionising radiation is classified as a type 2 carcinogen (the WHO) and the fact that 5G masts will be put on every street and high building across the city affecting everyone biologically and pychologically
    even if they can’t feel anything, no-one is immune to artifical pulsed emf radiation

    also look into bird deaths
    birds, bats and bees are falling dead all across the world
    especially in the cities that have a lot of this new technology

    why don’t you do a thorough investigation on all of these points and make something of your journalism degrees!

  • matt h says:

    Alot of this mis information may relate to *one graph* that forgot to take account for people having skin around there brains…..the skin, walls even air blocks these frequencies…have a read:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/16/science/5g-cellphones-wireless-cancer.html

  • Sheona Williams says:

    A friend just sent this to me. It’s really spiteful. I don’t understand why you would turn on a community group like that. Unless you were compromised in some way. It’s really sad that a local paper has done this. To matt h above – you simply don’t understand how 5G works. It will use a ‘multitude of frequencies’ – many in the 4G ‘range’ and many in the high Ghz. The 4G range, as we already know, pass easily through walls – and us. Microwave radiation starts at 300MHz and goes up to 300GHz. There isn’t ‘one graph’ as you state – there are many. There are just so many peer-reviewed studies that show that mobile phones cause cancer. What you probably don’t know is that the telecommunications industry only employ their own scientists that ONLY report what they need them to say. TO DATE NO ‘OFFICIAL’ STUDIES EXIST TO SHOW HOW GHZ EFFECTS INSIDE THE HUMAN BODY. Don’t you think that’s strange? Listen to Barrie Trower. Listen to the people that know not the industry and Government bodies that stand to rake-in trillions of pounds with this tech. I am sorry, but what you have stated is laughable and only shows your ignorance.

  • Kingfisher says:

    Whether there is something like the flu going round, a biological leak, would be connected with the so call second phase of the so called virus, 5g radiation frequencies. We need to stop all activities with this agenda until everyone is satisfied with the health implications to all forms of nature. We all need to live in harmony. I do not CONSENT to 5g or vaccines.

  • mr w says:

    i learnt a new term the other day, captured agency, a phenomenon i knew about, but didn’t know it had specific ‘title’. fcc, cdc [usa], ofcom [uk] are examples of captured agencies. this is where a sector regulator who is meant to look after the interests of the citizens is largely staffed by individuals with very strong links to the companies the regulator is meant to keep in check; under the premise that the expertise to bolster the regulator comes from the market place. where this arrangement goes pear shaped is the revolving door-musical chairs between the regulator and specific-sector companies. other examples are hmrc and the big four accountancy/audit firms; also h.m. treasury and the financiers during the construction of the private finance initiative .

    ofcom should be broken up – conflict of interest – regulate broadcasters whilst it protects the interests of telecom [and 5g rollout] – recently, eamonn got on the wrong side of the tape.

  • Jo M says:

    4 words for you @ the Cable:
    SOLD OUT TO OFCOM

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