The conspiracy is so alarming, it is making internet giants, Google and Facebook, sit up and notice, and fight back, where they can.
Before we go any further, remember, 5G isn’t causing COVID-19. 5G networks use radio waves to transmit data. Novel Coronavirus is spread by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 5G and Coronavirus are like chalk and cheese and yet, the internet — right now — is buzzing with conspiracy theories linking the two, because well, why let a pandemic such as this go to waste, apparently. The conspiracy is so alarming, it is making internet giants, Google and Facebook, sit up and notice, and fight back, where they can.
Google-owned YouTube allows almost anybody to set up an account, post videos and also, make money off of them. All of that is alright, untill somebody comes up and posts something that goes against YouTube’s policies. YouTube keeps updating these policies from time to time, to keep up with the changing times. We’re talking about videos that may have a potential to hurt the sensitivities of its users around the world. YouTube doesn’t ban videos as frequently though. At most, it tags them as ‘borderline’ which means its AI won’t readily show up these videos in your feed at the top where you could easily see them.
The same was true about conspiracy theory videos linking 5G to COVID-19. Until one video changed everything. The video that featured noted conspiracy theorist David Icke was watched by about 65,000 people as it was streamed live for nearly two and a half hours. Before it was taken down. Of course, YouTube didn’t ban the video right away because you know, it doesn’t usually do that. Even though logic would dictate, it was aware of the broadcast. Some meticulous reporting — and questioning — by the BBC got the job done.
Here are a few controversial quotes from the YouTube video:
— There is a link between 5G and this health crisis.
— 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. (In response to reports of miscreants damaging 5G network equipment in the UK)
The conspiracy theorist also claimed that any potential Coronavirus vaccine (there’s none right now) would include nanotechnology microchips. He also said that Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is helping fund Coronavirus vaccine research, should be jailed.
YouTube bans COVID-19 conspiracy theory videos
It took a nudge, and not to mention, a pandemic, for YouTube to realize such videos must be addressed with due diligence. They must be banned.
“Now any content that disputes the existence or transmission of COVID-19, as described by the WHO [World Health Organization] and local health authorities is in violation of YouTube policies. This includes conspiracy theories which claim that the symptoms are caused by 5G,” YouTube said in a statement.
While it will still continue to reduce recommendations for borderline content “that could misinform users in harmful ways,” YouTube is (finally) stepping up its game against COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
Facebook removes false posts connecting 5G to the coronavirus
In March, Ben Mackie shared very similar sentiments — as David Icke’s — on Facebook. He went on to say that Coronavirus wasn’t even a virus “when it is the 5G towers being built around the world,” that are — presumably — causing it. He also said that Bill Gates invented 5G to ‘depopulate’ the world. All these claims were later debunked by UK fact checker FullFact, also in part pushing Facebook, to tweak its policies.
The world’s largest social media platform is now removing posts falsely connecting 5G to the Coronavirus.
“We are taking aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platforms and connect people to accurate information about Coronavirus. Under our existing policies against harmful misinformation, we are starting to remove false claims which link COVID-19 to 5G technology and could lead to physical harm,” Facebook said in a statement.
WhatsApp updates chat forward limits
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has announced that it will now limit all users to forward a message only once per chat. The limit applies to what WhatsApp calls ‘frequently’ forwarded messages.WhatsApp will allow users to forward a given message up to five times, as is usually the case. But once the given message has been forwarded up to five times (or more), WhatsApp’s new forward ‘limit’ will come into effect. This means, users will not be able to forward a message that has already been forwarded five times (or more), more than once. The new limit on frequently forwarded messages is aimed at constraining ‘virality.’
WhatsApp has been criticized, time and again, for having failed to do enough to curb the spread of fake news. It’s taken a pandemic, but WhatsApp seems to be finally getting serious about this particular aspect.