5G conspiracy theories; what they are, why they are wrong and what can be done

While the majority of the general public might be immune to the absurdity of conspiracy theories linking 5G to COVID-19, there are enough believers to burn down infrastructure.

Here, we are having a look at the conspiracy theories, past and present, which have plagued the 5G era and attempted to provide some information to disprove the nonsense.

This is not a conclusive list of all the 5G conspiracy theories, so feel free to point out any we have missed in the comments section.

5G is a hazard to your health

This is a claim which has been bouncing around the industry for years prior to the 5G technology even being validated in lab trials. It dates back to the 90s, when mobile phone usage was incredibly limited, with critics claiming the 2G airwaves could in fact cause cancer.

Although the vast majority of the world now dismisses these rumours, the emergence of 5G seems to have encouraged the rebirth of these health claims. Finding an original source is very difficult, but there are plenty of posts which appear on social media which seem to fan the flames of these fanatics.

A picture of an engineer climbing a telecoms mast in a hazmat suit was used as justification for these claims, though it was clear the individual was using hazardous chemicals to clean the equipment. These illusions of proof help paint the picture, as the blind following the blind tend to ignore the thousands of images of healthy engineers installing or repairing telecoms equipment without such protective equipment on.

The idea that the airwaves used in mobile communications can be a detriment to your health is focused on the idea of ionising and non-ionising radiation. Telecoms equipment does emit radiation, but so does most electrical equipment. The point which seems to get lost is this Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) is not powerful enough to cause damage to humans.

The following statement is taken from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website:

There are two general kinds of electromagnetic radiation: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is powerful enough to knock electrons out of their orbit around an atom. This process is called ionization and can be damaging to a body’s cells. Non-ionizing radiation has enough energy to move atoms in a molecule around and cause them to vibrate, which makes the atom heat up, but not enough to remove the electrons from the atoms.

The damage which can be done to the human body generally depends on how far up the spectrum the airwaves being used are, or whether it is high- or low-energy. A high-tension power line can create a much higher energy electromagnetic field that is still low in frequency, therefore there are safeguards around these sites, while medical equipment using x-rays make use of much higher frequencies so should also be regarded as dangerous.

However, numerous public health authorities such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the Germany-based scientific body in charge of setting limits on exposure to radiation, have both stated on numerous occasions the airwaves used by mobile communications is not harmful to health.

5G is the cause of COVID-19

In March, Dr Thomas Cowan, a US doctor on disciplinary probation, claimed 5G poisoned cells in the body forcing them to excrete waste which eventually became known as COVID-19.

The video, which went viral and was reposted by several celebrities, has been disproven by several scientists who questioned the validity of the evidence. It has since been removed by YouTube.

“Viruses are not just debris,” Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist and Canada research chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba, said in an interview with CBC. “Viruses don’t just get created as a way to deal with poison.”

Scientists have been able to recreate the virus in a lab, proving it is not simply a secretion from human cells, while there were numerous other claims in the Cowan video which did not add up. Cowan suggests the emergence of the Spanish Flu (1918) coincided with the launch of commercial radio services (1920), while he also claims the fact Wuhan is ground-zero for COVID-19 and the first city to have 5G (it wasn’t) was also proof of the link.

This is fantasy, and while Cowan might present himself as an expert, a deeper dive into his history presents a very murky character being investigated by the Medical Board of California for using unlicensed drugs, an author of books promoting ideas contrary to conventional medical procedures and a champion of the anti-vaccination movement.

5G can kill birds and plant life

This is a slightly unusual claim and appears to be more coincidence that anything else.

In the Hague during October 2018, the Netherlands, 297 birds were found dead which was attributed to the presence of 5G trials in the area. Similarly, in North Wales in December 2019, 225 birds were found dead. In both of these examples, it was decided 5G was the root cause of the deaths.

After examination in the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam and Wageningen University, it was determined the cause of death was some form of collision. Perhaps a bird of prey was present, causing confusion in the flock (which can swell to the size of thousands of birds) and subsequently mid-air collisions occurred.

In all honesty, there is no single reason for the mass death of these birds, however these incidents have been going on long before the introduction of 5G and even mobile communications. For example, residents of Beebe in the US state of Arkansas awoke on January 1, 2020, to 500 dead blackbirds strewn across lawns and roads, despite there not being a 5G antenna for hundreds of miles. Going back even further, it was reported in 1904 750,000 migrating Lapland Longspurs were found dead in Worthington, Minnesota.

What is worth noting is that 5G is not the root cause. The incidents have predated the introduction of mobile communications and autopsies on the dead birds recently have ruled out any connection between 5G, with some even pointing out trials were not taking place in the Hague when the starlings were found.

This is perhaps why conspiracy theories have persevered in certain areas. Without a single, proven cause of such phenomenon, the absurd claims will run wild. In a scientific void, some minds become susceptible to the fantastical.

Another wildlife claim is that 5G kills trees and other plant life.

After an image of felled trees in the Serbian town of Aleksinac was shared online, conspiracy theorists claimed the reason was to cover up the fact that the new 5G antenna would cause them to die eventually. By planting new trees, the Government would be able to cover up the damage which would have been done to the existing wildlife.

There is of course zero scientific evidence to suggest 5G impacts plant life, and an explanation for the Serbia incident has been sourced. According to Dalibor Markovic, a local politician, the aim was to rotten linden trees with new maple trees as part of reconstruction works on the street.

5G acts as an accelerator for the coronavirus

This is another which is linked to the current pandemic, and perhaps one of the conspiracy theories which has gained the most significant traction in recent days.

As with many conspiracy theories, it is very difficult to trace the pseudoscience back to its origin, and this claim is a perfect example. Pre-dating the coronavirus outbreak, the idea that 5G supresses the immune system is a popular one for critics and has been given a new life in conjunction with the spread of COVID-19.

The theory states that radiation from mobile communications is influencing the human body on a molecular level (suggesting it is ionising radiation), but also inhibiting the immune system. The spread of the coronavirus around the world is thanks to the presence of 5G technology and it preventing the body from fighting the virus.

As mentioned previously, and emphasised here by the Cornell Alliance for Science, there is no evidence linking 5G technology to the COVID-19 coronavirus. If a hotspot emerges in one area which happens to have 5G antenna, it is coincidental.

Unfortunately, people have been believing the conspiracy theory. A video from Hong Kong has been circulating social media, suggesting the masses are revolting against 5G, actually turns out to be from the protests which took place last summer, but this appears to be inspiration for the criminals who are vandalising telecoms masts in various places around the world.

What is worth noting is this is another example of why conspiracy theories work. In pursing an explanation, some individuals stop when one story seemingly answers all the questions. In not absorbing all of the information, these individuals are relying on incomplete data to make a conclusion.

For example, the conspiracy theorists are correct in suggesting both the coronavirus and 5G antenna are in places such as Wuhan (the origin of COVID-19), London and Paris, but fail to include Iran or Ecuador in their arguments. These are countries which have fallen victim to the pandemic, but do not have 5G connectivity.

Not only is there a lack of scientific evidence to support the conspiracy theory, when looking at all the data, the claim is baseless.

The lockdown is a government cover-up

This is an interesting one which even the most hardened of conspiracy theorists are unable to come to grips with; COVID-19 is a government conspiracy (although we’re not sure which one they are referring to) to enforce societal lockdown, which will allow the installation of 5G antenna en masse without the general public being aware. By doing it in secret, the general public will not be able to comment, object or protest until it is too late.

This one is truly remarkable.

Around the country there are of course councils who have been forced to abandon 5G plans due to objections from the community. For example, the Parish of Glastonbury prevented the deployment of 5G antenna for the Glastonbury Festival in 2019 thanks to opposition to the technology.

“To all those people who have paid a small fortune to go to Glastonbury, then you have effectively paid to be a human guinea pig,” said local conspiracy theorist Ian Crane. Conspiracy theorists believed the festival was being used as a scaled experiment for 5G, and while we suspect the council did not believe this story, there was enough of a protest to prevent it giving approval.

Some have suggested 5G is a military grade weapon, while other suggest the health consequences are well-known to governments, hence the need to roll it out during a lockdown. The Parish of Glastonbury is not the only local authority to oppose the deployment of 5G equipment, hence the fuel for this conspiracy theory.

The coronavirus is of course real, and lockdowns are a necessary inconvenience to prevent further transmission of COVID-19, though the presence of telecoms engineers on the streets is also crucial.

These individuals are not secretly installing 5G antenna, as some conspiracy theorists would have you believe, but are performing necessarily upgrades to improve the resilience and reliability of existing infrastructure. With internet traffic surging thanks to lockdown protocols, existing networks may come under strain as they were not designed with these scenarios in mind. It is not an exciting explanation, but it is a very logical one.

Virus’ can communicate through the radio airwaves

In 2011, several scientists authored a paper which suggested bacteria could produce electromagnetic signals to communicate with each other. Although the science in this paper is still disputed today, it has formed the foundation of the argument that the virus is able to communicate thanks to 5G.

Firstly, what is worth noting is that this paper has not been accepted by the academic community. Secondly, viruses are very different to the bacteria being discussed in this paper. And finally, COVID-19 is spreading in places where 5G is not present.

This is one of the more remarkable conspiracy theories present currently, but like every other one, the foundations of the story can be disproven or are not relatable.

Why do conspiracy theories spread?

According to The Conspiracy Theory Handbook, written by Stephan Lewandowsky of Bristol University and John Cook of George Mason University, there are several reasons why conspiracy theories can be believed.

  1. A feeling of powerlessness
  2. Coping with a threat
  3. Explaining unlikely events
  4. Disputing mainstream politics

People who feel powerless or vulnerable are more likely to believe and spread conspiracy theories, while they can act as a coping mechanism to explain highly unlikely events, or somewhere for blame to be directed when dealing with threatening situations. Sometimes people need someone to blame, dislike the ordinary or cannot accept the prospect of an unknown. In the absence of knowledge, the imagination prospers.

Lewandowsky and Cook detail the danger of conspiracy theories, but also the circular nature of the paranoid mind. If an aspect of the theory is disproven by evidence, this may well prove the existence of a greater conspiracy theory overarching the smaller tale. It is incredibly difficult to argue against the logic of an individual who is not open to absorbing all the relevant information or accepting that some conclusions might be incorrect.

The mind of a conspiracy theorist should be considered the same as a set of dominoes; if one is pushed, it impacts something else which leads to another scenario. You can’t knock over one theory without adding energy to another.

If you are suspicious a story might be an unvalidated conspiracy theory (though for many it doesn’t take much analysis), the Handbook suggests there might be several clues:

  • Contradiction: conspiracy theories often have contradictory claims when you dig into the details
  • Overriding suspicion: do you have to suspend belief in numerous other truths to make the narrative work
  • Nefarious intent: what is the end game or objective?
  • Something must be wrong: many conspiracy theorists have an ultimate belief that something is wrong with society
  • Persecuted victim: the conspiracy theorist is a hero for the people, fighting against the machine which is attempting to destroy the theorist
  • Immune to evidence: contrary science is claimed to be incorrect
  • Re-interpreting randomness: a belief that nothing happens by accident

In the majority of cases, a conspiracy theory can be spotted a mile away, but there are always a few which can seem plausible. And while it can be entertaining to ponder the extravagance of some, it is always worth remembering conspiracy theories are dangerous.

Conspiracy theories plant the seed of doubt, whether it is in science or authority. Today, society should be listening to scientists about the dangers of COVID-19 and how to best combat the pandemic, but there are still some who are wandering into fields and setting fire to the very communications infrastructure used by the emergency services. That could be the difference between life and death for someone’s aunt or grandfather.

What to do to combat conspiracy theories?

This is simple; education.

Some believe the conspiracy theories because they are that way inclined, but others will believe because it is the only explanation available at the time. Fictional detective Sherlock Holmes said; ‘when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’, which is applicable here.

The telecoms industry has thrust 5G onto society without explaining what it is, why it is different, how it works or why the world needs it. Some might question why money is being spent on 5G when 4G works today, which is a very valid question in the absence of telcos actually explaining user and network trends.

Few consumers will actually know video is rapidly increasing network traffic, which will eventually strain networks and user experience, therefore 5G deployments are a proactive effort to get ahead of the curve. This is about ensuring experience is maintained irrelevant to the increasing tsunami of data which is building.

Perhaps there is an assumption that the consumer does not want to know? Like a car, as long as it does the required job, does anyone care about the intricacies of the engine? But mobile communications is different as it is penetrating into so many different aspects of our lives, including some very sensitive areas such as healthcare and finance.

There are two ways to debunk conspiracy theories; facts and logic. In the case of 5G, the science needs to be presented to demonstrate why these conspiracy theories are nonsense, but to ensure there is not a resurgence, the drivers for 5G need to also be explained. When the general public understand the objectives behind 5G are not nefarious, the conspiracy theories will seem as absurd to everyone as they do to industry insiders.

Ofcom to investigate 5G conspiracy comments as telco abuse continues

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.

YouTube to limit exposure of 5G conspiracy theories but won’t remove content

YouTube has confirmed it will reduce the exposure videos which promote 5G as some sort of cause or accelerator of the coronavirus, though its actions are somewhat limited.

Officially, the video content which makes the link between 5G and COVID-19 does not actually break community guidelines, but it will be removed from recommendation engines as it has been deemed as borderline content.

Thanks to the incorrect conspiracy theories, telecommunications infrastructure was set on fire over the course of the weekend in multiple locations. Three has confirmed at least five sites were attacked, while Vodafone has said six sites were damaged, some of which were shared infrastructure and not all of which were housing 5G base stations. BT and O2 did not respond at the time of writing.

“Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the coronavirus around the world,” a YouTube spokesperson said. “We’re committed to providing timely and helpful information at this critical time, including raising authoritative content, reducing the spread of harmful misinformation and showing information panels, using NHS and WHO data, to help combat misinformation.

“We have also begun reducing recommendations of borderline content such as conspiracy theories related to 5G and coronavirus, that could misinform users in harmful ways. We’ll continue to evaluate the impact of these videos on the UK community and look forward to continuing our work with the UK Government and the NHS to keep the British public safe and informed during this difficult time.”

While YouTube will remove this content from the recommendation engine, it is stopping short of completely removing conspiracy theories from the platform. Although these statements are quite obviously false, creating content which states such beliefs or theories are not actually in violation of YouTube’s rules.

According to YouTube, the conspiracy theories would be labelled as borderline content. This is a category of content which could misinform users in harmful ways, such as promoting miracle cures, claiming the earth is flat or making blatantly false claims about historic events. Such content accounts for less than 1% of the videos available on YouTube, and while it will remain on the platform, removing it from the recommendation engine will make it much more difficult to find.

This is the position which YouTube is currently taking, but it might well be encouraged to a more firm stance over the coming days or weeks. Aside from Government pressure, the content is linked to violence, which will get YouTube’s PR team twitchy.

Following a weekend which saw ill-informed arsonists attack dozens of masts which host critically important communications infrastructure, it was suggested Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden would be speaking to social media representatives on ways in which misinformation can be combatted.

Although there is no official statement from DCMS on action moving forward, Chair of the DCMS Select Committee Julian Knight has called for more stringent action.

“To hear that crackpot theories are leading to people attacking phone masts or threatening telecom workers is sickening and it’s clearly time to act,” said Knight. “Government should work with social media companies to stamp out deliberate attempts to spread fear COVID-19.”

Considering the importance of communications infrastructure to aid society while COVID-19 is forcing a state of lockdown, but also its role in helping the economy bounce back in the future, something needs to be done. The infrastructure needs to be protected from the idiots who believe the pseudoscience and ignore statements made by who have the qualifications to make such assertions.

Internet giants decide US government has nothing to offer security talks

A coalition of internet giants have decided to have a meeting to discuss cybersecurity and misinformation during November’s US mid-term elections, but the government didn’t make the invite list.

It isn’t often the worlds tech giants all get along, but this seems to be an area which they can all agree on. Something needs to be done to remove a repeat of the controversy which has constantly stalked Donald Trump’s Presidential win, and it isn’t even worth bothering listening to the opinions of the government.

According to Buzzfeed, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy, called the meeting, inviting twelve other organizations but the government was not on the list. The snub seems to follow a similar meeting in May, where each of the invitees left feeling somewhat disappointed with the government contribution. We can only imagine Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary Chris Krebs and Mike Burham from the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force simply sat in the corner, one holding a map and the other pointing to Russia shouting ‘we found it, we found it, look, they don’t even do water sports properly’.

“As I’ve mentioned to several of you over the last few weeks, we have been looking to schedule a follow-on discussion to our industry conversation about information operations, election protection, and the work we are all doing to tackle these challenges,” Gleicher wrote in an email.

The meeting will take place in three stages featuring the likes of Google, Twitter, Snap and Microsoft. Firstly, each company will discuss the efforts they have been making to prevent abuse of the platform. Second will be an open discussion on new ideas. And finally, the thirteen organizations will discuss whether the meeting should become a regular occurrence.

While interference from foreign actors has proved to be a stick to poke the internet giants in the US, criticism of the platforms and a lack of action in tackling misinformation has been a global phenomenon. European nations have been trying to hold the internet players accountable for hate speech and fake news for years, but Trump’s Presidential win is perhaps the most notable impact misinformation has had on the global stage.

With the mid-term elections a perfect opportunity for nefarious characters to cause chaos the internet players will have to demonstrate they can protect their platforms from abuse. Should abuse be present again, not only would this be a victory for the dark web and the bottom dwellers of digital society, but it will also give losing politicians an opportunity to shift the blame for not winning. While this meeting is an example of industry collaboration, each has been launching their own initiatives to tackle the threat.

Facebook most recently revealed it scored users from one to ten on the likelihood they would abuse the content flagging system, and has been systematically taking down suspect accounts. Twitter has algorithms in place to detect potential dodgy accounts and limits the dissemination of posts. Microsoft recently bought several web domains registered by Russian military intelligence for phishing operations, then shut them down. Google has also been hoovering up content and fake accounts on its YouTube platform.

Whether the internet giants can actually do anything to prevent abuse of platforms and the spread of misinformation remains to be seen. That said, keeping the bundling, boresome bureaucrats out of the meeting is surely a sensible idea. Aside from the fact most government workers are as useful as a bicycle pump in a washing machine, Trump-infused politically-motivated individuals are some of the most notable sources of fake news in the first place.

Facebook turns the tables and starts measuring your credibility

Attack is sometimes the best form of defence, and with Facebook’s credibility being heavily question, the social media giant has decided to start tracking the trustworthiness of users.

Some might find the concept of being evaluated by Facebook somewhat uncomfortable, especially considering recent events which have made CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies as trustworthy as a child-snatcher in a playground, but it is a necessary step to clean up the platform. In a sense, Facebook is building the foundations to crowdsource its fight against fake profiles and misinformation.

While Facebook does now employ a team of reviewers to judge whether posts fall outside the platforms rules, the battle against misinformation and hate speech starts with the user flagging content which they deem inappropriate. Of course, people’s standards vary, which is the main difficulty in judging what should be appropriate for the world and what shouldn’t, but the credibility score seeks to identify those who are trying to abuse the system.

According to the Washington Post, users will be scored between one and ten dependent on the reliability of their feedback when flagging content as inappropriate. Details on how this are done are thin on the ground right now, this is done intentionally, but the aim is to find those who are intentionally flagging content as inappropriate when it isn’t. Political opponents for example, or perhaps those who would benefit financially from market confusion.

There are of course those who just find enjoyment in trolling others, and ideological warriors who simply don’t want to accept certain truths, or promote lies. After introducing the flagging feature in 2015, Facebook noticed there were certain people abusing the system, flagging content which they simply didn’t agree with. Disagreeing with an opinion is fine, that is the users choice, but that users opinion should not impact the credibility of the post when the judgement is not based on hard fact. By identifying those who are flagging content as inappropriate when it is not, the fact-checking team in Facebook can become much more efficient.

Unfortunately for Facebook, the task is much more complicated as there will be some who simply promote or flag content incorrectly who do not fall into the standard fake news profile. Take eco-warriors who are trying to save the planet by attacking the reputation of oil companies. They might promote content which is inappropriate or flag something simply because the company does not sit well with their principles. While they might be doing it for what they consider good reasons, it is still misinformation and in the same category as more nefarious means. Fake news is fake news, there is no such thing as justification.

Such a strategy from Facebook just shows how complicated it has become to battle against misinformation and maintain credibility. The algorithm will aim to identify these individuals and assess the risk associated with their activities. Twitter already does this to a degree, assessing the risk of a profile factors into how much the posts should be spread across the platform. It seems the algorithm will be used to aid Facebook’s reviewers assessments of flagged content, but also containing the risk of nefarious actors.

As mentioned before, how the algorithm actually works is hazy right now. While this might make people uncomfortable, not knowing how they are being judged, it is completely necessary. If Facebook publicises the rules and how it is coming to such conclusions, the same nefarious actors will find a way to beat the system, making it completely redundant.

Although the idea of having human fact-checkers will make Joe and Jane Bloggs feel safer on the platform, it is completely unpractical. As the tsunami of misinformation continues to grow, artificial intelligence is increasingly looking like the only option to keep such platforms honest and trustworthy.