Press Office

Conversation 5G coronavirus

Comment: How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory began

Published on:

Dr Wasim Ahmed is one of the experts investigating how the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory began.

In times of crisis conspiracy theories can spread as fast as a virus.

As the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on a world which struggled to comprehend the enormity of the situation it was facing, darker forces were concocting their own narratives.

Scientists and researchers were working – and continue to work – around the clock for answers. But science is slow and methodical. So far-fetched explanations about how the outbreak started began filling the vacuum. Among these strange explanations is a theory that the recent rollout of 5G technology is to blame. But where did this theory begin, how did it develop and mutate and what can be done to stem the tide of fake news? We asked four experts who have all done extensive research in this area to examine these questions.

Marc Tuters, assistant professor of new media and digital culture at the University of Amsterdam, and Peter Knight, professor of American studies at the University of Manchester, examine the big questions and the history of conspiracy theories. Then Wasim Ahmed, lecturer in digital business at Newcastle University, and Joesph Downing, a nationalism research fellow at the London School of Economics, share the results of their new study into the origins of the 5G conspiracy theory on social media.

Social network analysis

Wasim Ahmed and Joseph Downing

Our study set out to investigate the 5G conspiracy theory on Twitter towards the beginning of April 2020 which was when the conspiracy was trending in the UK and increasing its visibility.

This time period coincided with reports that at least 20 UK 5G phone masts were vandalised, including damage reported at a hospital. There were also 5G arson attacks across continental Europe during this time.

Our research set out to uncover who was spreading the conspiracy theory, the percentage of users who believed the theory and what steps were needed to combat it. We used a tool called NodeXL to carry out a social network analysis. NodeXL is a Microsoft Excel plugin which can be used to retrieve data from a number of social media platforms such as Twitter.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.



Latest News