Twitter stepped up to call out the “5G causes COVID-19” conspiracy theories, but admits it was a bit overzealous in doing so.
Most conspiracy theories are relatively harmless and you can just roll your eyes and scroll on. However, the fear around COVID-19 has led to people taking some truly stupid actions.
If you’re immersed in the wonderful world of social media, then you’ve probably seen the videos of people burning cell towers – many of which aren’t even 5G. You can find Facebook groups with “scoreboards” of which cities burn the most.
While it’s quite easy to laugh at people who believe that radio waves can cause a biological virus, their actions have very real and devastating consequences.
People need communication more than ever during a pandemic. Many people’s cellphones are their link to the outside world. 5G isn’t going to kill anyone, but being unable to contact the emergency services because some idiot has burned down the local cell tower just might.
Many of us have therefore been baited into engaging with 5G conspiracy theorists that we’d otherwise have scrolled past. It’s tiresome, and it feels like you’re sacrificing some of your own brain cells for a futile effort, but it needs to be called out.
Fortunately, Twitter started adding fact-checking links to tweets about 5G which explain that it cannot cause COVID-19. These fact-checks are only supposed to be attached to conspiracies, but Twitter acknowledges that it got it wrong in many cases:
Fact-checking has been a topic of hot debate in recent weeks following President Trump’s often rather questionable claims getting the special treatment. Trump wasn’t best pleased at being called out and signed an executive order which calls on the FCC to regulate social networks for bias.
There is a valid concern about bias in fact-checking. As important as fact-checking is, people must be confident that it’s being applied to everyone across the political spectrum equally for it to be effective.
Twitter is likely to face a lot more criticisms for its fact-checking in the future, but it’s heartening to see the company acknowledge where it got it wrong and can hopefully tweak a few things going forward.
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