Coronavirus: Google bans adverts on 5G conspiracy theories
Google has rolled out new measures to crack down on misleading health claims about 5G and conspiracy theories that the mobile technology is linked to coronavirus.
The search giant has banned advertising on search terms and keywords that relate to false information about 5G to prevent profiteering from the public health emergency.
Youtube, which is owned by Google, has also banned all videos that falsely link the next-generation mobile network to Covid-19 symptoms.
It follows reports that at least 20 mobile phone masts have been damaged in arson attacks in recent weeks as a result of conspiracy theories.
Pressure has been building on social media firms to stamp out misinformation amid concerns the damage to critical infrastructure would put lives at risk by hampering emergency response efforts during the pandemic.
The UK’s four mobile operators earlier this week urged people to report misinformation about 5G, saying stopping vandalism was critical for keeping the country connected.
“Not only are these claims baseless, they are harmful for the people and businesses that rely on the continuity of our services,” they said in a statement.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden is due to speak to tech firms this week about the need to stop the spread of conspiracy theories.
Google said it had been blocking ads related to coronavirus since January as part of its policy on sensitive events.
“As the Covid-19 situation evolves, we’ve been adjusting our enforcement to ensure that we are protecting users while prioritising critical information,” a spokesperson said.
Youtube’s decision to block videos comes after an interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke was live-streamed on its platform.
In the video Icke falsely claimed there was “a link between 5G and this health crisis”, the BBC reported.
A Youtube spokesperson said: “We have clear policies that prohibit videos promoting medically unsubstantiated methods to prevent the coronavirus in place of seeking medical treatment, and we quickly remove videos violating these policies when flagged to us.
“Now any content that disputes the existence or transmission of Covid-19, as described by the WHO and local health authorities is in violation of Youtube policies. This includes conspiracy theories which claim that the symptoms are caused by 5G.”
Facebook has also taken steps to remove any material that links coronavirus and 5G. The firm today rolled out a limit on the number a times a message can be forwarded on Whatsapp in a bid to combat the rapid spread of misinformation on the platform.