A spate of arson attacks targeting 5G mobile masts has spread to several EU countries over the past few weeks, industry officials warn.
The Netherlands is the hardest-hit country in the EU with 16 arson attacks, figures compiled Thursday by industry associations ETNO and GSMA showed. Ireland has seen three arson attacks, while Belgium, Italy, Cyprus and Sweden have all seen at least one.
The wave of conspiracy theory-fueled torchings on the Continent follows similar incidents that swept the United Kingdom, where 61 arson attacks and dozens of cases of harassment against telecom workers have been reported, the industry associations estimated.
Behind the spate of torchings are wild — and wildly untrue — theories that the spread of the coronavirus is linked to the rollout of 5G technology, the next generation of mobile internet networks.
Online groups have spread misinformation, including that 5G radiation led to the outbreak of the virus in the Chinese city Wuhan and that the virus travels over 5G radio waves or spreads more quickly in areas that have 5G internet.
Fringe groups have pushed back against the new technology for years, claiming it would hurt peoples health.
Health authorities have dismissed those claims in strong words. The World Health Organization lists the issue at the top of its myth busters page to help fight misinformation during the pandemic.
But efforts to clamp down on 5G fake news are not stopping new attacks, just as companies and governments are more reliant than ever on internet connectivity to keep public services ticking and the economy afloat.
Fringe groups have pushed back against the new technology for years, claiming it would hurt peoples health. In some European cities and communes — including the EUs de facto capital Brussels — protest movements have managed to stall 5G rollout.
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