Four more phone masts attacked over 5G coronavirus 'conspiracy'

5 April 2020, 13:45

More mobile phone masts have been attacked
More mobile phone masts have been attacked. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Four more phone masts have been attacked in the UK over false theories that link coronavirus to 5G.

A spokesperson for Vodafone confirmed that there have been four further incidents at their sites, and the site shared with O2.

Earlier in the week, blazes were reported in Birmingham, Liverpool and Merseyside as a number of people set fire to the masts in protest of 5G.

Several engineers have also been abused in the street.

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has now announced that he plans to hold virtual meetings with several tech firms next week to discuss measures against this.

"We have received several reports of criminal damage to phone masts and abuse of telecoms engineers apparently inspired by crackpot conspiracy theories circulating online," a spokeswoman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told the BBC.

"Those responsible for criminal acts will face the full force of the law.

"We must also see social media companies acting responsibly and taking much swifter action to stop nonsense spreading on their platforms which encourages such acts."

Condemning the theories as "the worst kind of fake news" at a Downing Street press conference on Saturday, national medical director of NHS England Professor Steve Powis said: "I'm absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted, that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency.

"It is absolute and utter rubbish."

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove added: "That's just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well."

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: "Conspiracy theorists are a public health danger who once read a Facebook page.

"Here, we also see similar groups of people keen to show their ignorance on a topic where they have no helpful expertise, nor any inclination to post useful public health messages."

"It beggars belief that some people should want to harm the very networks that are providing essential connectivity to the emergency services, the NHS, and rest of the country during this difficult lockdown period," said Vodafone's UK chief executive Nick Jeffery.

"It also makes me angry to learn that some people have been abusing our engineers as they go about their business.

"Online stories connecting the spread of coronavirus to 5G are utterly baseless. Please don't share them on social media, as fake news can have serious consequences."

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It comes after LBC News reported yesterday that mobile network providers and the government had to issue a warning against the spread of the conspiracy theory after pictures of burning masts were posted on social media.

Mobile UK, the body that represents mobile providers, said the false rumours and theories were "concerning".

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it was "aware of inaccurate information being shared online about 5G".

"There is absolutely no credible evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus," it added.

Mobile UK said it is "concerning that certain groups are using the Covid-19 pandemic to spread false rumours and theories about the safety of 5G technologies".

"More worryingly some people are also abusing our key workers and making threats to damage infrastructure under the pretence of claims about 5G," a statement said.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said it extinguished a 5G mast tower fire near the M57 motorway on Friday night.

West Midlands Fire Service put out a fire in Birmingham on Thursday at the top of a 70ft tower on a telecommunications site.

The service said the cause was yet to be identified and they did not know if it was a 5G mast.

Facebook has been forced to take down a page encouraging people to set fire to 5G masts.

A video has also gone viral showing a woman confronting two workers laying a fibre optic cable in a street in London.

In the clip, which has been viewed millions of times, the woman challenges the men who are laying fibre optic cable, which does not carry 5G, accusing them of not being key workers. Telecoms engineers are key workers under the government's guidelines.

In the video, the woman says: “You know when they turn this on, it’s going to kill everyone, and that’s why they’re building the hospitals.

"Do you have children, do you have parents? When they turn that switch on, bye bye momma. Are they paying you well enough to kill people?”

The engineers were praised for their calm response.

Experts have commented that coronavirus has spread widely in the world in countries where there is no 5G network.