One of the more enduring items of fake news centres around 5G, which theorists believe is at the root of the global outbreak despite the claim being debunked by fact-checking organisations as far back as January.
A post widely shared on Facebook, which claimed that 5G was rolled out of Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the early outbreak, now carries a warning that it has been debunked by independent fact-checking charity Full Fact.“The main implication of the claim—that 5G can impact immune systems—is totally unfounded,” Full Fact’s Grace Rahman wrote in the report. “There is no evidence linking the new coronavirus to 5G.”
When searching for “coronavirus” on Facebook, where users are advised to visit the NHS website for the latest information, false adverts claiming to promote a cure for the virus have also been circulated on the network.
The company announced it would begin to remove content “with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them” on 30 January, though many debunked claims remain accessible in 5G group pages.
All scientific evidence points to 5G in its current form being non-harmful to humans. Like its predecessor, it uses radio signals over a range of frequency bands to transmit and receive voice and data by communicating with base stations – stationary radio transmitters with antennas mounted on masts or buildings.
The radio waves transmitted by base stations are a form of non-ionising electromagnetic radiation, falling at the lower end of the naturally-occurring electromagnetic spectrum, which is measured in frequency and wavelength.
UK network operators are required to comply with guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), a non-profit based in Germany which publishes scientific-based advice on the adverse effects of non-ionising radiation backed by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The ICNIRP’s guidelines extend well beyond the frequencies under discussion for 5G (around 71GHz maximum), and apply up to 300 GHz. As milimetre waves will be generally deployed between the 24 and 29 GHz spectrum, energy generated would be confined to the surface layer of human skin, ruling out tissue, bone or skull penetration, and therefore tumour risk.
Consequently, the WHO’s main conclusion from its reviews into electromagnetic fields is that “exposures below the limits recommended in the ICNIRP international guidelines do not appear to have any known consequence on health.”