People in the UK who have been tricked into believing a wild theory have set ablaze at least 20 telecommunications towers over the past couple of days. The perpetrators were reportedly led to believe that 5G technology is somehow responsible for increasing the spread of the coronavirus.
Apart from the unproven fear of 5G technologies emitting harmful radiation, increasing concern over how the technology could be spreading the virus has spread throughout the UK. Experts had previously laughed at the notion, but they are now paying attention as the hoax has resulted in actual crimes being committed.
The ridiculous theory has been shared throughout social media by various content creators, sparking unnecessary and unfounded fears amongst citizens. Last week, several mast fires were reported in Belfast, Birmingham, and Liverpool. One perpetrator even recorded his actions and posted the video online. The video eventually made its way into a Birmingham community web page, where users encouraged members to share the footage to increase awareness.
Facebook eventually removed the group and warned people not to share the video of the telecom equipment being destroyed. According to local officials, at least 20 telecommunications masts have been attacked or vandalized in the last few days.
Mobile UK head of policy, Gareth Elliot, mentioned in an interview that the actions of the perpetrators are placing people's lives at risk. Resources, which would have been better used elsewhere, had to be diverted. He added that they are continuing to monitor the situation and assured that they are doing everything they can to ensure that people remain connected.
In a joint statement released on Sunday, major UK mobile carriers had denounced the attacks. The UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport also condemned the attacks and mentioned in a tweet that the perpetrators who acted on the "crackpot conspiracy theory" will be arrested to face the full force of the law.
UK counter-terrorism agents and the police have launched separate investigations into the attacks. The government has also set up a special unit tasked with finding and halting the spread the false information about the coronavirus outbreak. Officials have also called on social media companies to help out in the fight against misinformation as the spread of these rumors could end up costing lives.
So far, the government has managed to slap sanctions against a small radio station that featured a guest who talked about the theory. Experts have pointed out that due to the current situation; people are now more inclined to believe in wild theories, no matter how baseless, simply because of fear.