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(Pocket-lint) - UK phone networks have hit back at crackpot theories surrounding 5G and coronavirus, pleading with the public not to harm essential network gear that - lest we forget - powers the phone networks that we all use including emergency services.

The Government is also expecting social media giants to face action and is set to elicit responses from them this week. 

A spokeswoman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told the BBC that "We must also see social media companies acting responsibly and taking much swifter action to stop nonsense spreading on their platforms which encourages such acts."


Rumours are thought to have spread on local WhatsApp and Facebook groups especially, although we've seen some crackpot posts bubble up on Instagram as well. YouTube was also quoted by Engadget as suppressing "borderline content" connecting 5G and coronavirus but won't ban 5G conspiracy theories outright. 

A handful of masts were attacked over the weekend and we know that at least four of them were sites running the Vodafone network, with some sites shared with O2. 

"It beggars belief that some people should want to harm the very networks that are providing essential connectivity to the emergency services, the NHS, and rest of the country during this difficult lockdown period," said Vodafone's chief executive Nick Jeffery. 

BT and EE consumer CEO also tweeted: "Phone masts keep us all connected at this extraordinary time. And yet we're seeing reports of masts vandalised because of a conspiracy theory linking 5G tech to the spread of Covid-19. This claim is baseless. We must look after the infrastructure and people keeping us in touch."

All four UK networks released the following statement on Sunday: "Our networks provide essential connectivity to our emergency services and the NHS; they enable families to check in on their isolated or vulnerable loved ones; parents to teach their children from home, and millions to be informed and entertained as they stay home.

"We are 100% focused on making sure the UK's mobile and broadband networks are resilient, ensuring you, your families and businesses, can keep connected when you need it most.

"Sadly, we have experienced cases of vandals setting fire to mobile masts, disrupting critical infrastructure and spreading false information suggesting a connection between 5G and the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no scientific evidence of any link between 5G and coronavirus. Fact.

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"Stopping this is critical to keeping your communities connected. Not only are these claims baseless, they are harmful for the people and businesses that rely on the continuity of our services. They have also led to the abuse of our engineers and, in some cases, prevented essential network maintenance taking place.

"Please help us to make this stop. If you witness abuse of our key workers please report it. If you see misinformation, please call it out. Your help will make a real difference. Thank you for your support as we work together to keep our nation connected."

Writing by Dan Grabham.
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