There’s no evidence to support the theory that 5G networks cause Covid-19 or contribute to its spread. But still, it refuses to die.
Here’s what to know about 5G networks, how these false theories came about and why they don’t hold up.
How 5G works
There are several theories linking 5G and Covid-19. One simply suggests that 5G networks cause Covid-19, or symptoms of the infection. Another more insidious one is that 5G networks emit radiation that weakens the immune system, making people more susceptible to infection.
To break it down, it helps to understand what exactly 5G is.
The big differences between 4G and 5G are faster speeds, higher bandwidth and lower lag time in communications between devices and servers.
5G signals run over new radio frequencies, which requires updating radios and other equipment on cell towers. Carriers building superfast 5G networks have to install tons of small cell sites to light poles, walls or towers, often in close proximity to each other. So far, the networks have mostly been deployed city by city.
Why people are linking 5G and Covid-19
5G networks began rolling out in cities and countries in 2018, but were more widely adopted in 2019 — the same year that Wuhan, China, saw the world’s first coronavirus outbreak.
Conspiracy theorists were quick to link the two, ignoring the ever-relevant adage: Correlation does not imply causation.
Another thing those areas have in common? They’re metropolitan areas: large population centers that are more vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus and are more likely to adopt 5G networks earlier.
There are other reasons those suggestions don’t hold up. Although Iran has not rolled out 5G, it’s one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic.
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is a body of independent scientific experts that considers how exposure to electromagnetic fields used by cell phones and other devices affects people’s health. The organization maintains that there is no link between 5G and the coronavirus.
“The theory that 5G might compromise the immune system and thus enable people to get sick from corona is based on nothing,” Eric van Rongen, chairman of ICNIRP, wrote in an email to CNN.
“There are no indications from scientific studies that 5G (or any other G) affects the immune system. If that would be the case, we would have seen effects on the scale and severity of infectious diseases already decades ago. And we don’t.”
What’s being done to limit the spread
Social media and internet platforms have started taking steps to limit the spread of coronavirus misinformation, though some have been slow to act.
“We will continue to take action on accounts that violate our rules, including content in relation to unverifiable claims which incite social unrest, widespread panic or large-scale disorder,” a spokesperson for the company said. “If people see anything suspicious on our service, please report it to us.”
Similarly, a Facebook search for “5G coronavirus” yielded mostly reliable information from news organizations, hospitals and health organizations, though false theories can still be found through the platform.
A spokesperson for Facebook said the company is taking “aggressive” measures to combat misinformation surrounding the virus, and is “starting to remove false claims which link Covid-19 to 5G technology” and which encourage attacks on cellular towers.
CNN’s Brian Fung, Clare Duffy and Hadas Gold contributed to this report.