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Economy Minister Dodds hits out after 5G phone masts are targeted

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Economy Minister Diane Dodds

Economy Minister Diane Dodds

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Economy Minister Diane Dodds

Economy Minister Diane Dodds expressed concern at "false claims" linking the coronavirus outbreak to the roll out of a 5G mobile phone network across Northern Ireland.

It's thought dozens of phone masts have been damaged across the UK and in Northern Ireland after theories spread online that 5G mobile technology was linked to the spread of Covid-19.

Coronavirus is, however, spreading in areas where there is no 5G network as yet.

Recently a mast was attacked in Belfast with the incident posted on social media.

DUP Minister Dodds said: "I am very concerned that there are some who are making false claims that Covid-19 is in some way linked to 5G technology.

"By continuing to circulate these unfounded claims they not only fuel anxieties but also fuel an environment in which acts of arson and the abuse of telecoms engineers doing their jobs is becoming more common.

“Nothing can be achieved by such actions. At a time when the importance of telecommunications has never been so prominent, this criminal damage and intimidation will only increase the difficulties faced by our community.

"I would ask those responsible to think of their community, particularly those who live alone, for whom telecoms services represent their only contact with family, friends and neighbours at this very difficult time.”

Posters have been spotted around Northern Ireland warning of the "dangers" of 5G and linking it to the coronavirus outbreak.

This was despite there being no evidence linking 5G signals to the pandemic.

Industry representatives and factchecking experts have described the theory as "dangerous nonsense".

Recently YouTube banned all conspiracy videos linking coronavirus symptoms to 5G. That followed after a live streamed interview heard false claims of a link with users subsequently calling for attacks on masts.

The PSNI appealed for information last Thursday after one phone mast on the Antrim Road in north Belfast was damaged in an arson attack.

According to an Irish News report, voices could be heard stating “F*** the 5G” and “Viva la revolution” as the fire burns.

Mrs Dodds thanked Northern Ireland’s telecoms sector for their work during the Covid-19 crisis.

She said she was “particularly grateful to the engineers who play such a pivotal role in keeping people connected, especially those isolated by illness and those categorised as vulnerable to this terrible virus”.

“The work of the engineers in maintaining the telecoms infrastructure at this time is invaluable to us all and should be respected, and any intimidation of staff is not acceptable,” she said.

“Engineers are continuing to ensure we are able to stay connected during this time of social distancing. Without them we wouldn’t be able to call our love ones, access vital online information and stay in touch with friends via social media.”

Fact-checking charity Full Fact linked the claims to two flawed theories suggesting the signal suppresses the immune system or that it uses the signal to infect people.

However, 5G uses a "non-ionising" waveband meaning it lacks enough energy to break apart chemical bonds in DNA to cause damage, according to a BBC report.

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection completed a major study of related research finding no evidence 5G could cause any kind of illness.

Yih-Choung Teh, telecoms watchdog Ofcom’s group director for strategy and research, said people were turning to public authorities and traditional broadcasters for "trusted information" about Covid-19, and the vast majority say they’re closely following official advice.

"With so much false information circulating online, it’s never been more important that people can cut through the confusion and find accurate, trustworthy and credible sources of news and advice.”

Ofcom said it has created a set of resources on its websites to provide people with guidance on how to navigate news and information about Covid-19.

These include debunking misconceptions and harmful claims, as well as tips on how to find reliable content and identify fact from fiction.

Belfast Telegraph