Covid 19 and related violence: the example of 5G attacks –  by Maria Alvanou and Barbara Lucini

As the medical world is fighting the novel Coronavirus, it is not only the disease of COVID 19 that is raising concern. Along with human health, it is also the health of society endangered. Violence related to the outbreak of SARS–CoV-2 is one of the problems officials have to address and a basic example is attacks against 5G towers. A conspiracy theory linking SARS-CoV-2 with either causing or accelerating the spread of the novel Coronavirus has already been spread in the UK[1] and to the rest of the world. Already there have been attacks against 5G towers in several parts of the world, including the Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus[2]. There are groups in social media calling for such action[3] and the situation has alarmed authorities[4]. The following are some points to explain this violence:

  1. Uncertainty, vagueness and lack of transparency regarding medical knowledge around SARS–CoV-2. The whole outbreak of this virus is still a mystery for scientists. There are many medical theories out there, in peer reviewed or not publications, but still there is no safe conclusion about the origin of SARS-CoV-2[5]. Also there seems to be no consensus about the extent of outbreak or the ways it should be addressed. All this scientific uncertainty, although completely understandable in scholar circles, makes the public upset. In this landscape of vagueness, conspiracy theories thrive. The 5G seems to be perfect, as it has been around and it is part of a general distrust against telecommunication technology. The novel Coronavirus came to be added to several fears people have about cancer, tumors and brain damage connected with mobile technology.
  2. Gaining lost control. A man will do anything because of fear. He will attack anyone and anything in order to survive and be secure. This is primal fear. When TV has shown the line of military trucks carrying the bodies of dead people out of Bergamo or the “graveyard” island in New York[6], all this has instilled fear in the hearts of people. They live bombarded by mass media with the message of death all around. An “invisible enemy” is out there to kill them. Thus, they want to find a way to act against this fear, this enemy and be-once again- in control of things around them. For some the feeling of taking action restores the pseudo-feeling of strength and control they need to continue living. What they can do is destroy what they think is the source of the problem. For such people, if 5G is responsible for the novel Corinavirus, then there are two benefits: First of all, the enemy is no longer an “invisible” one and secondly there is something to be done by anyone, even if he is not a scientist. Common individuals don’t work in laboratories, they don’t have PhDs in medicine, virology, biology and they cannot find any cure and scientific solution. But anyone can destroy a 5G and thus defeat- according to conspiracy theories- SARS–CoV-2 and save humanity (since scientists cannot).
  3. The relationship between covid-19 and 5G is a fake news mainly conveyed through social networks. In recent years, we have already seen how these tools are used largely for illegal purposes or to pursue extremist activities: on the one hand jihadist extremism and its online recruitment, radicalisation activities; on the other hand the increasingly fragmented micro world of the extreme right. Both of these elements affect the analysis of misinformation about a potential relationship between covid – 19 and 5G. Social networks adapt their misleading communication strategies to fill an information vacuum, created from little knowledge of the subject of discussion, prejudices of various kinds, lack of official information that turns out to be credible and reliable during the management of the crisis: just like the one we are living with the pandemic covid – 19. In particular, as well as for hate speech, the non-physical environment of social networks allows a decrease in the feeling of social reproach, amplifying the dissemination of unverified contents as well as the manifestation of own beliefs and bias.
  4. Disinformation is also a specific feature of certain communicative and relational dynamics used, for example, by far-right groups. In this regard, in fact, there was no lack of consideration about the belief that the covid 19 was conveyed through 5G[7]. Specifically, this connection has been supported in far-right circles, by linking it with the theories of replacement and destruction, of what in their vision are considered, ethnic minorities such as Western people.
  5. Such fake news also finds fertile ground, considering the level of acceptability of the risk linked to new technologies. When a new technology for multiple purposes wants to be introduced into a society, very few studies of risk acceptability by the local community and their perception are developed. This can fuel misperception, misinformation and false beliefs affecting the real life of the people and even the outbreak of violence.[8] 5G represents a new technology and a possibility of technological advancement of a nation. In the annual report (2019)[9] of the Italian intelligence services, the 5G network is placed within the Golden Power, with the awareness that the current levels of cyber resilience must be implemented. Also because as it is mentioned: cyber and national security are closely linked at the national level.[10] 6. An interesting case of misinformation concerning the potential relationship between covid – 19 and 5G is what happened in Italy when in early March the Premier’s economic adviser, Gunter Pauli speculated in a tweet a relationship between 5G and the spread of the coronavirus. [11] When a type of information such as this, not scientifically confirmed and proven, also finds space in elements of crisis governance it is symptomatic that a certain level of social and political instability occurs: the same instability that the intelligence services have repeatedly pointed out in Italy in recent months as a national threat factor. Finally, law enforcement around the world needs to be vigilant and act in order to prevent attacks related to 5G attacks. There is no doubt about it that since planning or even instigation of such attacks takes place in Internet, the web has to be monitored. However this is not just a policing issue. There has to be a coordinated effort by


[2] Indicatively: