The baseless conspiracy theory linking 5G towers to the novel coronavirus has been around for months, a COVID-era update to the old chestnuts about various kinds of waves or signals causing mysterious, widespread health problems. Experts have repeatedly and emphatically debunked this, with director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci calling it "thoroughly preposterous, untrue, and actually ridiculous" in a recent interview.
However, the idea that there's a link persists, to the point where 5G towers have been attacked in the UK and Europe.
Twitter's update comes a few weeks after the addition of guidelines around "content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information." Social media and other digital platforms like YouTube and WhatsApp have been working with public health organisations to fight misinformation on COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic, but few things are as resilient as a conspiracy theory.
This coronavirus is new, which means there's still a lot we don't know about how it works. The scientific detail of what we do know can also be hard for ordinary people to understand, or warped in multiple levels of simplification as news and information outlets seek to communicate each fresh development — not to mention certain public figures actively promoting false information. Speculation, paranoia, and opportunism have flourished in those blank spaces, despite the efforts of tech giants to swing into action against misinformation like they never have before.
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