For many people, 5G is still a source of trepidation, particularly in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. Most opinions are formed from information on social media, and the social platforms are doing what they can to reduce the effects of misleading information.
To this end, Twitter has announced that it will be adding a fact-checking label to posts that link the novel Coronavirus to 5G technology. The label directs people to a page with information that debunks the claim that 5G causes, or is linked to the spread of coronavirus.
Before the pandemic showed up, anti-5G activists had previously claimed that the mobile network technology would cause cancer, autism, and other health complications for people. But those claims didn’t get widespread attention and soon died down.
However, the outbreak of Coronavirus triggered another round of conspiracy around the 5G network. In Nigeria, one of the most popular proponents of the 5G conspiracy was Pastor Chris Oyakhilome who made a video presentation that linked the lockdown and 5G towers to the spread of the Covid-19.
Since misleading news about the coronavirus became more rampant, media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google have created ways to alert the public about contents bearing the conspiracy, the lack of authenticity and, in some cases, removing such content completely.
In Nigeria, the Twitter handle of the NCDC is listed on top of results for queries related to the COVID-19 as the verified place to seek information. The platform introduced warning messages and labels to tweets considered to carry fake information.
Twitter has now extended the fact check label to tweets that link 5G and Coronavirus. The algorithm may not be fully developed yet as it does not select tweets intelligently. Screenshots of tweets that have been labelled show that the algorithm will mark any tweet as long as it has 5G, and corona in the same sentence.
Some of the tweets are deliberate jokes written for the aim of being labelled for fact-check. Twitter’s algorithm also does not seem to pick all the variations of coronavirus such as Covid-19, Covid, and Coronavirus, for fact-checking when they are used with 5G in tweets.
I tweeted with 5G and Corona in the same sentence, and the algorithm missed it. This may mean that the label feature has not been deployed to Nigeria yet, or it is not intelligent enough to recognize 5G-Covid-19 tweets at the moment.
Labelling does not remove or block the tweet. Rather, it provides a wider perspective to the user. This is done through links to sites that provide credible information about the 5G network as it concerns Covid-19. Users are left to form their opinion from the information sources provided.