A label advises users to ‘get the facts about COVID-19’
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Twitter is now fact-checking tweets that link 5G and the COVID-19 pandemic by adding a label that promises to get users “the facts about COVID-19,” Business Insider reports. Clicking the label takes you to a Twitter page titled “No, 5G isn’t causing coronavirus” that includes links to news reports, fact-checking organizations, and government agencies debunking the conspiracy theory.
Twitter confirmed the move in a statement given to Business Insider. “Last month, we announced that we are introducing new labels and warning messages to provide additional context and information on some Tweets containing disputed or misleading information related to COVID-19.” The company’s previous announcement can be found here.
The labels attempt to fact-check 5G coronavirus conspiracy theories. Screenshot: Twitter
The spokesperson added that the company would only remove tweets entirely when it contains “a call to action that could potentially cause harm” but “will not take enforcement action on every Tweet that contains incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19.” This is in line with a policy update the company made back in April.
Some tweets are having the label applied in spite of not directly promoting the conspiracy theory. Screenshot: Twitter
In some cases, Twitter appears to be applying the label out of an abundance of caution, even when a tweet does not explicitly say that 5G is causing the coronavirus. One tweet cited by Engadget that says “Hmmm today I will get the facts about 5G Corona” alongside a picture of a pair of stick figures has had the label applied. However, the tweet appears to be referencing the fact-checking label rather than promoting the conspiracy theory itself. Searching for “5G corona” on Twitter shows dozens of tweets that have had the label applied.
“Labeling or placing a warning on Tweets continues to be an iterative process,” a Twitter spokesperson told Engadget. Given the real-world implications that 5G conspiracy theories have had, however, this aggressive fact-checking is arguably justified. In the UK, cell tower masts have been set alight and engineers have even been harassed in the street as a result of the conspiracy theories, putting national infrastructure at risk at a time when it’s playing a vital role in helping authorities respond to the pandemic.
There is no evidence to link COVID-19 with 5G. According to fact-checking organization Full Fact, there is no evidence that 5G suppresses the immune system, nor is there any evidence that viruses can communicate through radio waves. The pandemic continues to spread in countries without any 5G infrastructure at all.