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Twitter targets conspiracy theories linking 5G and coronavirus

Twitter will remove tweets that incite vandalism of 5G towers.
Karissa Bell, @karissabe
April 22, 2020
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POLAND - 2020/04/10: In this photo illustration a Twitter is seen displayed on a smartphone with a  COVID 19 sample on the background. (Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images via Getty Images

Twitter just added 5G conspiracy theories to the growing list of unverified coronavirus claims that are grounds for removal. Under the new rules, Twitter will remove tweets with “unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure.”

Importantly, the new rules don’t apply to all tweets spreading 5G conspiracy theories though. Twitter says it’s instead prioritizing claims that include a specific “incite people to action” or otherwise encourage vandalism, such as “5G causes coronavirus — go destroy the cell towers in your neighborhood!”

Conspiracy theories about 5G technology have become particularly problematic during the coronavirus pandemic. There have been 50 fires “targeting cell towers and other equipment,” in the Uk during the past month, according to the Associated Press. The conspiracy theories have been linked to anti-vaccine groups and Russian state media.

Twitter’s latest update is an expansion of the site’s previous rules around unverified info that can incite panic or social unrest, such as claims of food shortages that encourage panic-buying. Since then, the company says it’s removed more than 2,230 tweets with “misleading and potentially harmful content.”

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