The article originally appeared on Wired.co.uk
Seven years after the arrival of 4G, EE has finally switched on the UK’s first 5G networks in six UK cities – and more are coming. The upgrade promises much faster data connections but conspiratorially-minded online activists are convinced that the new technology will bring with it something much more sinister than an end to video buffering.
On social media, forums and online blogs, anti-5G activists are attributing a bewildering range of maladies to 5G, including cancer, infertility, autism and Alzheimer’s. In November 2018, a viral Facebook post blamed a 5G test mast for the mysterious death of 300 birds in the Netherlands (the test actually took place months earlier), while people in anti-5G groups share tips on how to smash down telephone masts. But how did an incremental upgrade in mobile networks turn into the internet’s favourite new conspiracy theory?