Facebook has taken action against posts by Irish anti-5G activists who said that masts “should all be burned down” and that “a 22 or a good slingshot” would “sort out” telecoms engineers erecting them.
Comments on the ‘Stop 5G Letterkenny’ Facebook page have been removed after the Irish Independent highlighted the intimidatory remarks this week.
A comment advising that a “22 or a good slingshot” would “sort” engineers was posted days before an Eir mast in Letterkenny was vandalised through arson last Sunday. The mast was being upgraded to give extra 4G mobile capacity for the local hospital.
Other posts show videos and photos of maintenance crews at telecom sites.
“We are removing misinformation that could contribute to physical harm,” a Facebook spokesperson told Independent.ie, confirming the removal of some activists’ comments on Facebook posts created by Stop 5G Letterkenny.
However, many of the group’s posts and comments remain up, including one conspiracy theory that the pandemic may have been “preplanned” as a cover for telecoms engineers to erect 5G infrastructure.
The group has also posted debunked claims that telecoms masts will cause “cancers and headaches”.
Irish telecoms companies have expressed fear in recent weeks over an escalation in attacks on infrastructure and masts.
The attacks are linked to conspiracy theories that associate 5G with the spread of Covid-19 or general health problems. Such claims have been roundly debunked by the World Health Organisation, as well as local medical authorities.
In the UK, almost 100 masts have been attacked or vandalised as the conspiracy theories on social media platforms gather pace.
Activists say that 5G technology will cause cancer and other illnesses, a claim that has been rubbished by the Irish Cancer Society, Comreg and other authorities.
Despite the debunked claims on 5G, a number of county councils remain opposed to the rollout of 5G in their areas, alleging that the technology has “not been proven safe”. However, Comreg says that 5G radiation remains far below the levels at which it becomes a threat to human health.
While Facebook responds to reports of potential specific infringements, it typically does not investigate more widely unless blacklisted terms or images are detected using its machine-learning techniques.
“Under our existing policies against harmful misinformation, we are removing false claims that 5G technology causes the symptoms of or contraction of COVID-19,” said the Facebook spokesperson.
“This includes posts that make false claims about cures, treatments, the availability of essential services or the location and severity of the outbreak. We also do not allow content that coordinates harm or publicises crime and we have removed multiple posts on Irish groups for violating these rules.”
Meanwhile, Facebook is to ramp up action for people who ‘like’ or comment on bogus Covid-19 information on the social media platform.
Under a new initiative, users who ‘like’ or comment on a misinformation post will now be shown links to World Health Organisation content on debunked myths.
“People will start seeing these messages in the coming weeks,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook vice president for Integrity.
“We’re going to start showing messages in News Feed to people who have liked, reacted or commented on harmful misinformation about COVID-19 that we have since removed.
These messages will connect people to COVID-19 myths debunked by the WHO including ones we’ve removed from our platform for leading to imminent physical harm. We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook.”
In some cases, Facebook says, misinformation is getting people to drink bleach as a Covid-19 remedy.