Telecoms infrastructure and staff are becoming the victims of the 5G conspiracy theories as Ofcom launches a full investigation into the short-sighted comments of TV Presenter Eamonn Holmes.
A swarm of celebrities have been fanning the flames of controversy by effectively endorsing conspiracy theories linking the coronavirus outbreak to the deployment of 5G telecoms equipment, and the latest is Eamonn Holmes, Presenter of ITV’s This Morning, a show which regularly attracts more than one million daily viewers.
Holmes has already addressed the statements which were made last week (which were very Trumpesque) but few will pay attention to the retraction. In fairness, Holmes did state he agreed the conspiracy theory was incorrect, but in questioning the validity of mainstream media, conspiracy theorists were given the ammunition needed.
For example, former-BBC Presenter and current-conspiracy theorist David Icke has tweeted support to the short-sighted reference made by Holmes without referencing the fact Holmes stated the conspiracy theory was not true. For those who thrive off half-truths and pseudoscience, Holmes has provided a soundbite to be used as support for inaccurate and false beliefs.
In the pursuit of balance, Holmes has affirmed his position. He does not believe there is any link between 5G and the coronavirus outbreak. It appears Holmes was attempting to present himself as a philosophical thinker, but it was a very amateurish attempt for someone who has such vast experience in front of camera.
As a result of the comments, Ofcom has launched an investigation, “assessing this programme in full as a priority”. 419 complaints were received about Holmes and his ill-advised comments.
Most of the time such baseless and idiotic theories are relegated to the comment boards on Reddit or obscure websites, but for some reason there are individuals who believe the nonsense. It does appear a lack of education into what 5G is and the complicated nature of spectrum is to blame, though the consequences are quite severe.
Over the weekend, BT CEO Philip Jansen complained about physical and verbal abuse which has been directed towards 39 field engineers, and Vodafone has also confirmed its staff have been the victim of abuse. Telecoms Association Mobile UK said there were an additional 20 arson attacks spread over the bank holiday weekend on mobile infrastructure, and it seems the trend is also spreading to Europe as Dutch infrastructure also came under attack.
The consequences are simple. Firstly, the field engineers are not necessarily and very unlikely to be working on 5G infrastructure. These individuals, who have been deemed essential workers, are most likely improving the resilience and reliability of existing networks to ensure the general public can communicate with friends and family during this time of self-isolation, or work from home to keep the economy ticking over.
The second very damaging consequence is to the emergency services. These organisations, which are critical today, make use of the telecoms infrastructure which is being targeted. Amazingly, the arsonists are not always attacking 5G masts (the intended target), sometimes just going for the easiest target which might well house 2G, 3G or 4G equipment, as confirmed by Vodafone.
“Telecoms networks are the backbone that is keeping our vital health, education and emergency services online, and all of us connected to friends and family,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “We must keep them safe and secure. It is the responsibility of internet giants, content providers, and social media platforms to continue to ensure disinformation doesn’t jeopardise our connectivity in this emergency situation.”
Although it is frustrating, this is perhaps something we will have to get used to in the short-term. It seems education on 5G is the only thing which will reassure the general public that mobile connectivity is safe, and of course preventing idiots like Eamonn Holmes adding fuel to the fire. The overwhelming majority of scientists have confirmed these conspiracy theories are false, but education takes time.