In recent days, a conspiracy making the rounds on WhatsApp in India has suggested that “5G radiation” from telecom towers “mixes with the air and makes it poisonous and that’s why people are facing difficulty in breathing and are dying”. Some Indians believe the theory and are sharing it with others.
Calling it "misinformation", the police authorities of India’s Uttar Pradesh state have issued a clarification emphasising that COVID-caused deaths are in no way related to “5G rays” – with trials for the fifth generation Internet having barely even taken off in the nation.
“According to the intelligence received that through social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp and phones, a rumour is being spread that 5G trials are spreading radiation and people are dying. This is not true. Maintain a vigilant eye on social media and prevent the spread of provocative content. Immediate refutation of rumours at every level is an important statutory action that should be taken immediately”, Prashant Kumar, the additional director general of police, law, and order in UP said in an official statement obtained by Sputnik.
Along with confusing people, the rumour is causing major property damage in Indian regions.
UP police authorities, in their clarification, also added that people from Fatehpur, Siddharthnagar, Gorakhpur, and Sultanpur districts of the state are threatening to disrupt 5G testing and uproot telecom towers.
India is a nation with over a billion people - of which at least 600 million use Internet-powered smartphones. Rumours spread rapidly in the country thanks to the digital penetration. Ironically, this digitisation is getting elderly Indians worked up with an array of fake information floating on social media - much of which is related to the rapid spread of the second wave of the coronavirus that is killing thousands in the country.
“My mother, a Botany professor, though highly educated, only has a limited knowledge of modern-day tech. Plus, people tend to believe if 10 others tell them the same stuff and this nonsensical ‘5G rays causing COVID deaths’ rumour is spiralling all over, seriously. If my urban mom can fall prey to this viral fake news, wonder what must be the panic situation in smaller Indian regions”, Arjun Parashar, a digital media professional from Delhi, told Sputnik.
Shiv Gurung, a bank official from the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim, has also heard of this rumour and has been sharing it with hundreds of people he knows in other states.
“I got a video, that was a bunch of slideshows explaining that 5G rays are creating breathing problems for us. We cannot rule out the possibility at least”, Gurung told Sputnik, emphasising just how vulnerable Indians are right now, as the daily new COVID cases are crossing 400,000 and panic around the second virus wave is gripping their minds.
Several others have highlighted the perceived problematic conspiracy linking COVID to 5G on social media.
A message is being circulated on social media claiming that the second wave of coronavirus is nothing but an impact of radiation being released by 5G testing. #Factcheck #TLIFactcheck #Coronavirus #5Gtesting pic.twitter.com/qPvZiSiuO3— The Logical Indian (@LogicalIndians) May 4, 2021
Dear @rsprasad Sir,— Suraj Gupta (@SurajGupta421) May 7, 2021
In India, rumors have started spreading that 5G testing is d reason behind the new wave of corona virus. This happened last year in Britain as well, where some cell towers were set to fire by the protesters. Pls take necessary proactive action.#5G @GoI_MeitY
#Fact_Check— Ankit Bhatt (@AreyAnkit) May 4, 2021
1. 1. A report published in The Economic Times on 30 March 2021 said that “DoT is yet to schedule India’s maiden 5G spectrum sale”
2. WHO stated that "Virus Can't Be Transferred From Radio-Waves"#5G #5Gtesting #FactCheck #FactsVsMyths #India #CovidIndia #Rumor pic.twitter.com/KVrJGen4hn
5G trials are yet to start but conspiracy theories started long back. https://t.co/CyE3PdxW7G— Danish (@DanishKh4n) May 7, 2021
Telecom technology and high-speed Internet have no scientifically proven relation with the coronavirus.
Additionally, 5G trials have barely even taken off in India – the Department of Telecoms (DoT) gave approvals to Indian telcos to proceed with testing just last week.