Researchers say that the conspiracy theory linking 5G technology to the outbreak of the coronavirus is a coordinated disinformation campaign.
Blackbird.AI, a New York-based company that monitors online disinformation campaigns, said it had in recent weeks identified a surge in the number of social media posts promoting the 5G conspiracy theory. In the previous 24 hours, there had been more than 50,000 posts about the topic on Twitter and Reddit, Naushad UzZaman, the company’s chief technology officer and co-founder, said on Wednesday.
There has been a “significant uptick in inauthentic amplification” of posts on social media linking 5G to the coronavirus, UzZaman said, indicating that there could be a coordinated campaign and bot accounts involved.
Marc Owen Jones, a researcher at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar, who specializes in online disinformation networks, analyzed 22,000 recent interactions on Twitter mentioning “5G” and “corona,” and said he found a large number of accounts displaying what he termed “inauthentic activity.” He said the effort bears some hallmarks of a state-backed campaign.
“There are very strong indications that some of these accounts are a disinformation operation,” Jones said.
The researchers have not disclosed or are not aware of who is behind the effort.
“We’ve definitely seen plenty of organized disinfo around 5G-coronavirus,” said Danny Rogers, co-founder of the Global Disinformation Index, a non-profit that tracks disinformation online.
Last week, at least 20 mobile phone masts have been attacked in the U.K., some set on fire, and British telecommunications companies have issued statements saying the 5G conspiracy theory has led to abuse of their employees.