Irish mobile operators say they are increasingly concerned at the risk of attacks on equipment as misinformation about 5G continues to circulate. While Facebook and YouTube say they will remove posts and videos that lead to damage or danger, conspiracy theorists are operating in plain sight on the platforms.
Now populist scare stories about the technology, given oxygen by Irish county council resolutions, are starting to translate into agitation and violence.
On Easter Sunday, a suspected arson attack left Eir mast equipment in Donegal in flames.
The next day, Eir confirmed that the mast does not have any 5G connectivity, but is being upgraded to give better 4G coverage to the local hospital in Letterkenny.
Donegal, like many other counties around the country, has a number of increasingly active anti-5G protesters.
In Letterkenny, the most prominent group is called 'Stop 5G Letterkenny'.
Last Thursday, the group turned its Facebook page's attention to the large Eir mast beside Letterkenny Hospital that was undergoing maintenance. It urged members to "go to the mast near the hospital" and "share it with the nation".
It then posted videos of workers at the site and a telephone conversation between a local anti-5G activist and the safety manager responsible for the construction site and the Eir upgrades.
One of the comments on the post suggested that "a 22 or a good sling shot will sort them out".
One activist called Michael Mooney, reposted by Stop 5G Letterkenny, suggested that the maintenance was a "cover-up" to facilitate a 5G upgrade.
He then posted some questions about the maintenance work being done on the Eir mast. These questions included conspiratorial suggestions linking the work to the current coronavirus pandemic.
He asked: "Why was this work ongoing during a pandemic? Was this pandemic pre-planned to allow this work to be carried out whilst everybody else [is] locked up?"
Mr Mooney then followed up with a common assertion from most anti-5G protesters in Ireland: "When this new gear is switched on, what new sickness and illness and cancers and headaches are going to appear?"
Mr Mooney's post, shared by Stop 5G Letterkenny, was shared 59 times.
Similar posts from other anti-5G protest groups are common on Facebook.
The social media giant, with an international headquarters in Dublin, has promised to crack down on pages and groups that make specific debunked claims, such as that Covid-19 and 5G are connected. "We are starting to remove false claims that 5G technology causes the symptoms or contraction of Covid-19 under our existing policies against harmful misinformation," a spokesperson for the Irish office told the Irish Independent.
"We are enforcing these policies globally, so if we are made aware of this content in Ireland, it will be removed."
However, the spokesperson was unable to say whether it had yet taken action against any Irish posts under the new rule.
Last week, Facebook confirmed that it had taken down pages run by a handful of British anti-5G campaigners for linking the technology to the coronavirus.
These included the groups entitled 'Stop 5G UK' and 'Destroy 5G Save Our Children'.
But Facebook isn't the only problem. Fringe news websites in Ireland are also suggesting that there may be a link between the Covid-19 lockdown and 5G installations around the country.
Five days before the Stop 5G Letterkenny post about the Eir mast, theliberal.ie posted a story about an "apparent rush to install 5G masts while the country is on lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus crisis".
The story, with a byline of Gerard Clarke, went on to say that "those concerned with the possible health impacts of 5G have been left outraged by the move which some see as an opportunistic move by the Government to install the network without facing public query or protest".
It then asked readers to share the post on social media and leave comments.
Those battling such rumour mongering also sometimes have to deal with primetime media presenters appearing to offer succour to the conspiracy theorists.
Earlier this week, the British broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, received over 400 complaints when the Northern Irish anchorman of the ITV 'This Morning' programme, Eamonn Holmes, suggested mainstream media was wrongly "slapping down" 5G health scare stories because they "suited a state narrative".
On unproven fears linking 5G to health problems, Mr Holmes also claimed that the mainstream media "does not know that they're not true".
The next day, he said that his comments "may have been misinterpreted" and acknowledged that "there is no connection" between Covid-19 and 5G.
However, he left the door ajar on the issue of whether 5G might still be bad for your health, adding that "many people are rightly concerned and are looking for answers and that's simply what I was trying to do".
He may have known he was on safe political ground in adding this rider.
In Ireland, there are dozens of elected politicians - representing tens of thousands of people - who advance debunked theories that 5G technology can cause cancer or other health maladies.
Five county councils - Clare, Leitrim, Wicklow, Wexford and Sligo - have passed resolutions asking for 5G mobile rollouts to stop in their counties. In each case, councillors claim that the technology has not been proven to be safe.
In some instances, some of the country's most senior TDs have joined in.
In November, Sinn Féin's Donegal TD and front bench spokesman, Pearse Doherty, voiced concern about potential health downsides to 5G and supported a motion (backed, he said, by the entire Sinn Féin front bench) to review its rollout in Ireland. However, Mr Doherty's proposal was voted down by the general membership of the party.
The combination of all the escalation in agitation against 5G is giving Irish operators the jitters.
The country's second-biggest mobile network, Three, is currently preparing its 5G rollout here.
"Given what we have seen in the UK and in Donegal, we would have concern that our equipment could be targeted as well," a spokesperson told the Irish Independent.
Vodafone, which has a growing 5G network across the country, is also on alert.
"We strongly condemn the attacks reported in Donegal on network infrastructure at a time when connectivity for critical services, businesses and vulnerable groups within our society is vital," said a spokeswoman.
Donegal isn't the only recent incident of intimidation. Last week, protesters threw onions at mobile engineers upgrading a 4G mobile site in Dublin's Ballyfermot suburb. The work was being done by the telecoms contracting firm KTL.
Although no one was injured, one of the engineers targeted was on a monopole, the company's chief operating officer, Peter Dwyer, said.
"It was quite dangerous," said Mr Dwyer, who added that industry workers upgrading telecoms equipment are increasingly on the "receiving end" of violent behaviour.
In the UK, there have been over 40 attacks on 5G masts in recent weeks, as activists boil over with theories they've read on social media groups or heard in YouTube videos.
Ironically, maintenance work is more urgently required on Irish networks now than in previous months.
Operators here say that there has been a spike in usage since the lockdown began. Writing in these pages today, Vodafone CEO Anne O'Leary says the increase in data and voice demand is as high as 50pc.
Last week, the telecoms regulator approved additional spectrum capacity for the mobile operators, to help vital services and people working from home.
Following a rise in tension over 5G, the watchdog was also moved to publish a special notice debunking some of the more extravagant claims.
"ComReg urges everyone to ignore misinformation circulating on social media and not to spread it further," said a spokesman.
"There is absolutely no truth in the rumours of a link between Covid-19 and 5G.
"This has been confirmed by the European Commission and World Health Organisation, among others.
"The Department of Health has advised that Covid-19 is spread in sneeze or cough droplets and there is no evidence of a link to 5G."
Other organisations, from cancer charities to the World Health Organisation, have categorically ruled out health threats from 5G.
"There is simply no evidence to support worrying about phones or masts when talking about cancer risk," says the Irish Cancer Society on the 5G health question.
"The changes to frequency used by technology such as 5G mean that these signals cannot even penetrate the human body."
However, this is unlikely to arrest the wilder conspiracy theories about the technology online.
Ireland has a long history of frightening itself about mobile phone masts, from Kerry's one-mile exclusion zone rule to masked gunmen threatening contractors in the Border counties.
It may take a new round of civic resolve to change the temperature, involving organisations like Facebook and the dozens of councillors who are still giving refuge to mythical stories of death and disfigurement from the latest cellular technology.