From Keri Hilson to Teddy Riley, celebrities are backing the conspiracy theory that 5G radiation is causing COVID-19.
As COVID-19 continues to be a danger throughout the world, so is the misinformation attached to the coronavirus. There have been many conspiracy theories — including the idea that Black people are immune to COVID-19 — out there. And although they’ve been debunked or disregarded as falsities, there’s one, in particular, that doesn’t seem to go away — the idea that 5G radiation is causing the virus.
5G is the next generation of wireless network technology that will succeed 4G. Where the former differs from the latter is that it will have faster speeds, higher bandwidth, and lower lag time in communications between devices and servers. With the advent of 5G, cell towers have needed to be updated because the wireless network runs over new radio frequencies. The four major U.S. cell phone carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon — first announced plans to deploy 5G last year. Since then, each has rolled out their respective plan, with most of them expecting to offer nationwide 5G service by the end of the year. 5G could also be used for other services like self-driving cars and remote surgeries, although it’s unlikely we’ll see this on a large scale anytime soon.
Since mid-March, celebrities and non-celebrities alike have taken to social media to share this conspiracy theory. One of the first instances was singer Keri Hilson, who peddled the theory on Twitter and Instagram.
“People have been trying to warn us about 5G for years. Petitions, organizations, studies…what we’re going thru is the effects of radiations,” Hilson wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “…And to be clear, I’m saying there have been lots of studies & experiments that point to the possibility that the dangerous levels of electromagnetic radiation (5G) could be causing the contagious virus.”
Recently, Teddy Riley backed the theory as well. While speaking with Charlamagne Tha God about why his Instagram Live battle with Babyface was postponed, Riley also offered his thoughts on the coronavirus.
“I feel like we’re being bamboozled, and we’re being made to believe so many things that is not the truth,” he said. “The corona — everybody know by now what it really is — it’s really about this new world order that they’re trying to put in with these G5 connections.” (Yes, Riley referred to it as “G5 connections” instead of “5G connections.”)
But the theory didn’t begin with Riley, Hilson or any of the other celebrities — YG, John Cusack, M.I.A., Woody Harrelson — that have peddled it. (Tyrese has also chimed in on 5G but didn’t explicitly correlate it with the coronavirus.) The conspiracy is but an extension of fears and paranoia people already had toward 5G. Initially, some believed that cellphone radiation could increase the chance of cancer, as pointed out by a report from BuzzFeed. That same report goes on to note that evidence supporting this theory is “weak to nonexistent,” with the World Health Organization having disputed the theory of mobile telephone base stations causing cancer.
Now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, conspiracy theorists now believe that 5G is behind COVID-19.
According to five years’ worth of Facebook sharing data via social metrics site BuzzSumo, the majority of the most-shared links on the platform about the ‘dangers’ of 5G are YouTube videos that were all published in the last year, starting around the same time that the British telecom company EE announced 5G service in six cities across the United Kingdom.
Recently, there were reports of 5G towers being set on fire in Belfast, Liverpool, and Birmingham in the United Kingdom, leading to UK mobile carriers asking people to stop burning the towers. When Hilson peddled the theory on Instagram, she shared a since-deleted video of holistic physician Thomas Cowan arguing that “in every pandemic in the last 150 years, there was a quantum leap in the electrification of the earth.” In the video, Cowan begins his thesis statement by arguing that the 1918 flu was caused by long-range radio. (As Slate pointed out, a thread was made by a Twitter user that thoroughly debunks Cowan’s theory.) He then makes his way to the present, where he implies that the activation of 5G networks is contributing to the spread of the coronavirus. There are many, many other theories that exist to support the claim of 5G causing COVID-19, and among these are even the claim that 3G and 4G networks caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and swine flu, respectively. (This theory has been debunked though.)
So, what about 5G and COVID-19? Is there any validity to the theory? Of course not. Cell phones, AM radio, and microwave ovens are categorized as nonionizing radiation, and don’t harm DNA directly. This is unlike X-rays and ultraviolet light, which are categorized as ionizing radiation because they can damage human cells and DNA. This is because both transmit radio signals at frequencies that are higher than those transmitted by cell phones and cell towers.
Also, the theory has already been debunked. UK fact checking charity FullFact.org wrote the following about the claim last month:
As we’ve written about before, there is no evidence that 5G is harmful to humans. 5G is the next generation of wireless network technology, following on from 4G. Like 4G, 3G and 2G before it, 5G mobile data is transmitted over radio waves — a small part of the whole electromagnetic spectrum (which includes microwaves, visible light and X-rays). These radio waves are non-ionising, meaning they don’t damage the DNA inside cells.
Public Health England has said that there’s no ‘convincing evidence’ that exposure below the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation guidelines can cause adverse health effects. These guidelines go up to 300GHz, whereas the maximum for 5G will probably only be in the tens of GHz.
The International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), a Germany-based scientific organization that assesses the health risks of radio broadcasts, also confirmed that 5G is safe last month.
So, there is no proven link between 5G and negative health effects or COVID-19, and celebrities are doing a disservice to the public by peddling it any further. Fortunately, platforms where this theory is being shared are actively taking down the false information, including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.