Facebook said it has started removing content linking coronavirus to 5G — provided the posts are likely to cause physical harm, The Information reported. Facebook said it is taking “aggressive steps” to remove such misinformation as part of its response to coronavirus hoaxes. According to the report, “physical harm” will include posts making false claims about cures, treatments or the location and severity of the outbreak. It will also removing posts that encourage people to attack 5G masts, a few cases of which have been reported in the UK in recent weeks.
If the posts do not violate Facebook’s rules on physical harm and attacks, Facebook will attempt to “debunk” the claims. If fact-checkers label the posts as false, the posts’ distribution will be limited, and warning labels will be added to them.
Earlier this week, YouTube began reducing the number of recommendations for videos that spread false claims that 5G technology is linked to coronavirus. YouTube said it would actively remove videos that breach its policies, but would allow content that is is simply conspiratorial about 5G technology and networks, but don’t mention coronavirus, to remain on the platform.
The conspiracy theory that 5G is linked to coronavirus claims that 5G suppresses the immune system, making people susceptible to the virus. It also claims that the virus can somehow be transmitted via radio waves. The conspiracy theories have been called “the worst kind of fake news” by a top representative of the UK’s National Health Services. There is no evidence that 5G is linked to, or causes coronavirus, or reduces immunity. COVID-19 is spread from person to person via small droplets that COVID-19 positive people spread through their sneeze, cough, or simply by exhaling. Mobile industry body GSMA has urged internet giants, content providers and social media platforms to “accelerate their efforts” to remove fake news linking the two.
UK Culture secretary Oliver Dowden will reportedly hold virtual meetings with representatives of several technology firms next week and demand that they be more aggressive in their response to the conspiracy theory.
In an attempt to further reduce the velocity of the spread of messages around COVID-19, WhatsApp limited forwards to only one person or chat at a time, bringing it down from the earlier limit of forwards to five people or chat at a time. This development was not specifically related to the false claims around coronavirus adn 5G.