Twitter tackles 5G Covid-19 conspiracy in the UK with warning prompt

Conspiracy theories have linked 5G with the spread of Covid-19 and has lead to miscreants destroying 5G towers in the UK

Posted by Jhinuk Sen

Twitter said the search prompt would inform users that the government had seen no link between 5G and Covid-19, and include a link to a government website with credible, factual and verified information in relation to 5G.(REUTERS)

Twitter said on Wednesday it would tackle the spread of damaging conspiracy theories linking mobile phone technology with the coronavirus with a prompt to direct people searching for 5G to British government-verified information.

The theory, which has spread on social media, has resulted in attacks on mobile telecoms masts and abuse directed at engineers in Britain. Scientists, phone companies and the government have said it is completely untrue. Twitter said the search prompt would inform users that the government had seen no link between 5G and Covid-19, and include a link to a government website with credible, factual and verified information in relation to 5G.

Also read: Coronavirus-5G conspiracy theory fuelled by coordinated effort

Katy Minshall, Twitter UK’s head of government, public policy and philanthropy, said the move was the latest step in its focus on connecting people with authoritative information regarding Covid-19.  “Our partnerships throughout this pandemic have allowed us to take proactive steps in bringing people the information most relevant and useful for them,” she said.

Facebook and Google have also taken steps to counter misinformation about Covid-19 on their platforms, however the social media companies have been criticised for not doing enough to counter misinformation. Representatives from all three were questioned by lawmakers last Thursday about the steps they had taken.

Also read: Fact check: 5G does NOT cause Covid-19, please be rational

The chairman of parliament’s digital and media committee Julian Knight said the position they had adopted was “deeply unhelpful and failed in clarifying what they are doing to tackle the threat posed by record levels of misinformation and disinformation online about Covid-19, some of it deadly.”  

Facebook recently removed the official page of British conspiracy theorist David Icke, who has promoted the 5G theory, for violating its policies on harmful misinformation. Google terminated Icke’s YouTube channel for the same reason.


Promotion of social networks
Real subscribers, real likes, real views
To order

Coronavirus: David Icke kicked off Facebook

Facebook has taken down Mr Icke’s official page

Facebook has taken down the official page of conspiracy theorist David Icke for publishing “health misinformation that could cause physical harm”.

Mr Icke has made several false claims about coronavirus, such as suggesting 5G mobile phone networks are linked to the spread of the virus.

In one video, he suggested a Jewish group was behind the virus.

Following the ban, his Twitter account posted: “Fascist Facebook deletes David Icke – the elite are TERRIFIED.”

Facebook said in a statement: “We have removed this Page for repeatedly violating our policies on harmful misinformation”.


On Friday, campaign group the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) published an open letter calling on tech companies to ban Mr Icke’s accounts.

The letter said Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube had amplified “Icke’s racism and misinformation about Covid-19 to millions of people”.

It was co-signed by MP Damian Collins, as well as celebrity medics Dr Christian Jessen, Dr Dawn Harper and Dr Pixie McKenna.

The CCDH said videos of Mr Icke making “untrue and conspiracist claims about Covid-19” had been watched more than 30 million times online.

As examples, it cited:

  • a YouTube interview in which Mr Icke falsely claimed that a Jewish group was behind coronavirus
  • an Instagram post in which he falsely claimed 5G mobile networks left people unable to absorb oxygen
  • a YouTube video in which he falsely claimed it was not possible to catch a virus from shaking hands
  • a Twitter post in which he falsely claimed Germany was moving to “legalise rape” for Muslim men

The letter was published after Facebook had removed Mr Icke’s page.

In April, YouTube removed an interview with Mr Icke in which he said there “is a link between 5G and this health crisis”.

When asked for his reaction to reports of 5G masts being set on fire in England and Northern Ireland, he responded: “If 5G continues and reaches where they want to take it, human life as we know it is over… so people have to make a decision.”

Facebook later removed the same video saying it broke its rules on misinformation.

Later, the telecoms regulator Ofcom found local TV channel London Live in breach of standards for an interview it aired with Mr Icke about coronavirus.

Presentational grey line


By Marianna Spring, Specialist disinformation and social media reporter

David Icke has promoted several conspiracy theories on social media throughout the pandemic – and has consequently found himself in hot water with social media sites and broadcasting regulators.

The health misinformation that he’s been spreading, including linking 5G to coronavirus, has played a role in platforms like YouTube tightening their policies about conspiracy theories.

This is a difficult area for social media sites to tackle.

Medical myths and speculation that could cause harm are easier to act on, while conspiracy theories occupy a grey area where companies risk accusations of censorship if they take action.

But the setting alight of mobile phone towers and abuse of telecommunications workers linked to this 5G coronavirus conspiracy has pushed sites like Twitter and TikTok to tighten their rules.

Facebook has also recognised that the conspiracy theories repeatedly promoted by Icke fall into their bracket of harmful misinformation. This isn’t the first time it has removed content from him – but the platform has gone one step further in taking down his page.

Governments and social media sites alike grapple with the fine balance between stemming harmful narratives and allowing freedom of expression. But experts point out that they can do both with effective moderation and collaboration.


Promotion of social networks
Real subscribers, real likes, real views
To order