YouTube has added a new conspiracy to its so-called “borderline” topics: the false theory that next-generation 5G mobile networks are linked to the new coronavirus and the respiratory disease it causes, COVID-19. That means Google-owned YouTube will reduce recommendations to those videos, which can significantly cut down how much they’re viewed.
But YouTube, which has more than 2 billion monthly users, stopped short of outright banning videos about the false theory.
While YouTube is removing videos promoting medically unsubstantiated methods to prevent coronavirus, “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,” YouTube said in a statement.
As the coronavirus and COVID-19 have proliferated across the globe, so too has misinformation about them. But 5G networks use radio waves to transmit data; the new coronavirus, officially named SARS-CoV-2, has nothing to do with radio waves or 5G. And SARS-CoV-2 is the only cause of COVID-19.
But the false theory has led to possible arson attacks against UK phone towers. The UK’s national medical director has called the 5G conspiracy theory “complete and utter rubbish,” and UK carriers have outright asked people to stop burning the towers, attacks that could undermine connectivity just as more people need it.
YouTube added in its statement that it will continue to evaluate the impact of these videos, working with UK health and government authorities to help keep the public safe and informed.