How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory went from fringe to mainstream - 2020-04-24
The first link John Gregory saw pushing a connection between 5G and the coronavirus pandemic was on a French conspiracy website called Les moutons enragés, which loosely translates as "The rabid sheep." A January 20 post floated that the millimeter wave spectrum used by 5G technology and Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, could be related, pointing to reports about Wuhan installing 5G towers before the outbreak. Three months later, conspiracy theorists making similar claims were setting cellphone towers on fire in Europe.
Gregory, a senior analyst at the internet trust tool NewsGuard, caught an early glimpse of the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory, but it didn't take long before the fake news started to spread. Two days after the French blog post, a Belgian newspaper called Het Laatste Nieuws published an interview with a local doctor, who floated the unfounded claim that the coronavirus outbreak could be linked to 5G cellphone towers installed near Wuhan in 2019. The article was taken down within hours, but the theory had already spread to English-language Facebook pages. Gregory wasn't surprised.
"There's been a crowd that has been saying that 5G is harmful to human health for years, ever since 5G was first being proposed [and] well before any towers or networks were online," he told Recode. "This is just their latest attempt to push those claims, tying them onto this current news story."