The Minister of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) Afamasaga Rico Tupai has spoken out to correct misinformation and allay public concerns about 5G technology in Samoa.
Conspiracy theories claiming the deadly coronavirus can be transmitted through the use of 5G technology has flooded Samoa’s messenger inboxes in the past few days. Some have posted images of telecom towers located around Samoa, with claims that they are transmitting “5G”.
Concerned that the misinformation is causing nationwide panic, Afamasaga Rico Tupai says many of those sharing the post are pushing a conspiracy theory that mobile phone network signals carried by radio waves – is somehow responsible for coronavirus.
“We must stop the spread of misinformation especially at a time when Samoa and the rest of the world are in need of technology and access to the internet for important communication and timely dissemination of information”, said Afamasaga.
The theories published as 30-minute videos, have been circulating on Facebook since late January, around the same time the first cases were recorded in the US however, in the past week, videos with similar messages have been widely shared amongst Samoans.
One of the videos claims that 5G can suppress the immune system, making people more susceptible to catching the virus. Another claims that cities with 5G technology are the worst hit by COVID-19.
Samoa’s Minister of Information Technology calls on the people of Samoa to remain calm, keep informed of the issues and be diligent about passing misinformation that can cause unnecessary panic.
“Some of the posts I saw this morning showed towers here in Samoa, with captions claiming that they were 5G and that is very misleading; there is no 5G in Samoa,” reiterates the Minister.
Asked if 5G technology was in the pipeline for Samoa’s technological advancement, the Minister says, “not now”.
“We are not even thinking about it, or even discussing it; it is not even a conversation we are having at the moment;
“We do not have 5G in Samoa. It has never been discussed, and it is not on any plans for Samoa.”
In the UK, multiple cell towers were targeted last week because of the conspiracy theories. A joint statement by the top 4 UK mobile operators pleaded for help, to stop people from burning 5G towers.
“Not only are these claims baseless, they are harmful for the people and businesses that rely on the continuity of our services,” says a joint statement from EE, o2, Three, and Vodafone. “They have also led to the abuse of our engineers and, in some cases, prevented essential network maintenance taking place.”
In Samoa, the Minister of Communication and Information Technology says those spreading false information to trigger anger and possibly ignite vandalism and damage to cell towers, have been referred to the police.
“We are a small economy and we are trying to manage our infrastructure right now to make sure the coverage gets to everyone, and with everybody now staying home, access to the internet has become so important for both work and our children’s schooling”, says Afamasage.
“E manaomia uma e tagata le access i le internet i le taimi nei.”
“We need everyone to just remain calm, stay informed, and please, check your facts before you forward misinformation”.
There is no evidence that 5G, or any other kind of radio waves are harmful to people.
Radiowaves are found at the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum, and as such produce non-ionizing radiation, meaning they do not damage the DNA in cell tissue.
International radiation watchdog the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) set new guidelines for 5G frequency last month, and confirmed that the frequencies at which 5G will be deployed will be safe.
ICNIRP chair, Dr Eric van Rongen has said, “The guidelines have been developed after a thorough review of all relevant scientific literature, scientific workshops and an extensive public consultation process. They provide protection against all scientifically substantiated adverse health effects due to [electromagnetic field] exposure in the 100 kHz to 300 GHz range.”
A British fact-checking charity called Full Fact points out that there are many places affected by the coronavirus disease where 5G infrastructure hasn’t yet been deployed. Iran, for instance, has not rolled out 5G, but is among the hardest-hit countries.
Earlier this week, British minister Michael Gove labeled the 5G conspiracy theories “dangerous nonsense.”
The National Medical Director for England, Stephen Powis, said they were “the worst kind of fake news.”
“I’m absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted, that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency,” said Powis. “It is absolute and utter rubbish.