Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
Some activists are worried about the biological and health effects of 5G infrastructure — which uses both cell towers and nearby antennas to create high frequency radio waves to deliver better service — citing studies that link higher-frequency radio waves to cancer.
COVID-19, however, is a respiratory disease spread mainly from person-to-person through respiratory droplets but can also be spread when a person touches an object, such as a cardboard box, that has been infected by another person.
But the 5G-COVID-19 conspiracy theory has led to more than 100 incidents involving U.K. police in April alone, including 30 acts of vandalism and arson, as well as 80 incidents of harassment toward police, the Times reported.
The theory that 5G radio waves are diminishing human bodies and making them more susceptible to COVID-19 spread on social media apps like Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and YouTube, as well as through celebrities like John Cusack and Woody Harrelson, according to the Times.
Stephen H. Powis, national medical director for England, called the theory "complete and utter rubbish" during an April 4 press briefing. The video has 990 likes and 2,200 dislikes.
"It's the worst kind of fake news," Powis said. "The reality is that the mobile phone networks are absolutely critical to all of us, particularly at a time when we are asking people to stay at home. ... But in particular, those are also the phone networks that are used by our emergency services and health care workers."
"I'm absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted, that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency," Powis said.
The news of the attacks against cell towers and harassment toward police linked to this conspiracy theory highlights the power of social media and messaging apps in terms of spreading false COVID-19 information that could lead to more harm.
Google recently banned ads on search terms that link to "misleading health claims" about 5G and COVID-19. Facebook has also increased its efforts to combat the 5G conspiracy theory, as well as other conspiracies, on its platform and WhatsApp, according to The Telegraph.