Twitter is expanding its crackdown on misinformation that may influence people to “engage in harmful activity” to include a conspiracy theory that 5G technology is somehow behind the spread of the novel coronavirus causing the current covid-19 pandemic.
“We have broadened our guidance on unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure, or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest, or large-scale disorder,” the company tweeted Tuesday. According to a blog update on the change, the guidance now covers tweets with messages like, “5G causes coronavirus—go destroy the cell towers in your neighborhood!”
Outside of niche 5G conspiracy theories, Twitter said the rules extend to other unfounded claims that might spur action or generate panic, such as fake claims that there will be a monthslong food shortage and that people must hoard goods in preparation.
Earlier this month, officials attributed a string of around 50 incidents of attacks on wireless towers in Britain to the 5G conspiracy theory. As with other unfounded conspiracy theories related to the novel coronavirus and covid-19, the disease caused by the strain, the spread of the claim appears to have snowballed from misinformation, paranoia about about 5G technology, and your run-of-the-mill xenophobia related to China and Chinese technology.
Getting the people the most up-to-date and accurate information about coronavirus has not been made easier by the fact that any idiot with an internet connection can fire off a tweet or Facebook post to tens or hundreds of thousands of people at once—particularly if they’re famous. John Cusack recently tweeted unfounded claims about 5G more broadly, and Woody Harrelson shared a variation of the coronavirus-specific 5G conspiracy theory on Instagram earlier this month.
It’s almost as if celebrities and randos on the internet aren’t health authorities and, by every indication cited here, have no idea what the hell they’re talking about.