Thanks to social media, the superstitious belief that 5G is causing the coronavirus pandemic continues to circulate. But now Twitter wants to rein in the outlandish conspiracy theory.
On Wednesday, the company said it would remove the most dangerous 5G-coronavirus tweets: Those that tell people to destroy 5G cellular towers in order to stop the virus.
Twitter made the change as the conspiracy theory appears to be causing real-world damage. In the UK, over 50 cell towers have already been vandalized with the major telecom companies blaming the attacks on the rise of 5G-coronavirus claims.
“It is deeply disappointing to learn that arsonists are still attacking our mobile phone masts — that’s 20 so far,” wrote Vodafone CEO Nick Jeffrey last week. “One of the sites targeted over the weekend provides mobile connectivity to the Nightingale hospital in Birmingham.”
The arson attacks have prompted other social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube to remove or suppress content that groundlessly connects 5G cellular networks for creating COVID-19. But in the case of Twitter, the company is refraining from stamping out all 5G-coronavirus conspiracy theories circulating over the platform.
“We have broadened our guidance on unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure, or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest, or large-scale disorder,” the company explained.
The statement suggests users can still promote 5G-coronavirus theories, so long as they avoid explicitly telling people to destroy cell towers.
A month ago, the company said it would crack down on coronavirus misinformation. Under the new rules, tweets that doubt the severity of the pandemic or deny established scientific facts around the disease’s transmission can get removed. However, journalists have been questioning how strictly Twitter has been enforcing the new policy.
On Wednesday, the company simply said: “Since introducing our updated policies on March 18, we’ve removed over 2,230 Tweets containing misleading and potentially harmful content. Our automated systems have challenged more than 3.4 million accounts targeting manipulative discussions around COVID-19.”