Why Are People Protesting Against 5G?

30th December 2020

5G is the latest generation of wireless technology. It is expected to allow a lot more devices to have access to the internet at the same time. However, the installations and endorsements of 5G have encouraged protest that in some cases have been violent.

Social media sites have provided platforms for people to spread false information on the topic of 5G. For example, at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, many people believed that the virus and 5G radiation were in one way or another connected.

A key example of this was the facebook group ‘What Goes Up Mast Come Down’. Misinformation led to groups like this encouraging their followers to harass 5G engineers and commit arson attacks on cell phone towers.

Reza Ganjavi is a Swedish Activist who manages several anti-5G groups on Facebook. This includes ‘Stop5g Legal Resistance, No Need For Violence To Stop 5G’, which has over thirty-five thousand followers. Within these groups he has had to deal with people posting claims that 5G is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The kinds of things we were getting were just mind-boggling, the kind of garbage like, ‘they opened up a 5G cell and we saw that it was written in Chinese, corona'

—Reza Ganjavi

The Activist does still believe that there is some truth to the idea of the two things being connected. He agrees with those that claim cell phone towers are weakening our immune systems, which if true would tie into how vulnerable we are to the virus.

Kenneth Foster is a Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He has argued that these theories that have been trying to make connections between 5G technology and the coronavirus have not been supported by any legitimate proof.

There is not the slightest bit of evidence for such a claim, which is preposterous on face value

—Kenneth Foster

He describes the belief that 5G created the coronavirus to be one of the biggest myths he has heard about the wireless network.

Alternatively, Theodora Scarato, the Executive Director of the Nonprofit ‘Environmental Health Trust’ Organisation, believes that 'the industry’ are pushing the narrative of these misinformed anti-5G movements, to distract from what she believes are the true reasons to be against 5G.

"That is a way to get away from the fact that wireless radiation is harmful and there's all this research that documents adverse effects at low levels, something needs to be done about that. Instead, there's all this conversation about misinformation".

She views the mainstream media's focus on easily debunked theories as their way of deflecting from the real issues with 5G.

Tanja Rebel is one of the Coordinator’s of the global 5G protest group called ‘Stop 5G International’

The Eco Philosopher believes that the existing electro smog created by previous generations of wireless technology has already compromised our health. Similarly to Theodora Scarato, she argues that this is not mainstream knowledge because ‘the industry’ has chosen to deny it.

Rebel’s issues with 5G also stem from a comparison of how in the present time we have designated areas where people can and cannot smoke cigarettes, whereas she argues this will not be the case with our exposure to 5G radiation.

“5G is gonna be increasing the amount of radiation that we’re exposed to enormously, because it will be everywhere, it will be inescapable”.

Tanja Rebel suspects 5G will leave us more vulnerable to a number of health risks including; skin cancer, neurological disorders, strokes, heart attacks, cataracts and even our vitamin-D absorption.

Dave Johnson is an American Technology Journalist who writes mostly about consumer technology, particularly where it intersects with science. He also has a degree in Aerospace Engineering.

When I write about 5G I try to actually get to what is the real science

—Dave Johnson

He has spoken to a multitude of scientists and doctors about a lot of the reasons people are against 5G. Most of the experts he has spoken to have discounted the narratives that many of the anti-5G movements are spreading. In particular, they have debunked the theories claiming that 5G's radiation has already been proven to have dangerous health effects.

From what Johnson gathered, he concluded that 5G has been tested 'reasonably well', although he still agrees that more studies on its health risks could be beneficial.

“The bottom line is, if you are going to assert that established technology like EMF actually has health effects on humans, you need to bring a lot of evidence to the table to support that, and not just make assumptions or just have a hypothesis”.

The ‘National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' Toxicology Program released a report which investigated what happens to male rats when they are exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR). They used RFR to resemble the radiation in 2G and 3G cell phones. The final reports revealed that the rats developed cancerous heart tumours, as well as tumours in their brains and adrenal gland.

However, this study was criticised for being incomparable to the way human-beings are exposed to this radiation when we use our phones. Not only this, but the exposure levels used in this study were four times higher than the maximum power levels that cell phones are allowed to use.

Technology Journalist, Dave Johnson has also criticised this type of study.

“They essentially took a bunch of cellphones and strapped them to rats and they let the rats just marinate in like LTE radiation twenty-four-seven for weeks or months, well that's not the way cell phones are designed to be consumed by human beings”.

“LTE radiation is a hazard but you don't understand what the risk is until you assess it in the real world, it's a difference between hazard and risk and so if I took a bunch of cellphones and duct-taped them to the top of my head and I just lived in it twenty-four-seven for a few months, yeah that might be dangerous I assume there’s some risk there, but you you have to see what is the quality of the study and so a study like that one for me was a low quality study”

Mr Johnson shared the study with doctors and scientists as well, they also agreed that no conclusions could be drawn from a study carried out this way. Such studies in their opinions, really only serve as creating unnecessary outcry.

‘Stop 5G International’ Coordinator, Tanja Rebel has claimed to have seen similar studies conducted by the Russian Military. In these studies they apparently tested 5G on animals and humans with results that she described as 'not pleasant', especially after they were dissected.

Dave Johnson has also come across these studies. He describes the use of a study allegedly conducted by the Russian Military as ‘a good boogie man’.

“It sounds official and yet it rarely has any actual real world credibility, in a lot of cases things that are attributed to the Russian Military are just simply made up, like it was never an actual study of any kind”.

The Executive Director of Environmental Health Trust, Theodora Scarato said she is not fully certain whether the human health risks have or have not been proven. That being said, she still claims that the scientists her own organisation work with would say that the radiation can cause cancer and non-thermal health effects.

She attributes the lack of official studies proving the health dangers of 5G to where the money has to come from in order for these studies to take place. In other words, the people who have the funds have incentive to not prove that 5G technology will impact our health.

The funding that's happening is by industry, with industry friendly design studies

—Theodora Scafato

In 2019, 180 scientists from a total of 36 countries expressed concerns regarding 5G to the European Union. As well as this, several leaders in the United States Congress have alluded to fears of its potential health risks. Members of Parliament in the Netherlands have also requested that the government take a deeper look into 5G.

Professor of Bioengineering, Kenneth Foster admitted: “There has always been a group of citizens, and a few scientists, who are concerned about the safety of RF signals in the environment. That was the case in 1971 when I first became involved in this field, and it is the case now.”

In the present time, there does not appear to be any solid and official evidence of health impacts related to 5G.

“Health agencies have reviewed health data about RF fields and failed to find credible evidence for hazards at ordinary environmental exposure levels. Some scientists feel that there is actually some real danger, and others assert that more studies need to be done to assess safety."

Kenneth Foster explains that health agencies themselves have called for more research, particularly on mm wave frequencies.

The debates around 5G technology have not been without the involvement of conspiracy theories.

According to Professor of Epidemiology, David Sanitz, a conspiracy theory is: “A theory lacking in scientific support or a high degree of plausibility. It often also tends to present as ‘uncertain’ or ‘possible’ scenarios that are ‘not likely’ or ‘demonstrably false’.”

The way people perceive conspiracy theories appears to range depending on who you ask.

Theodora Scarato claims she was recently called crazy by a NASA Scientist because people like her that are put under the ‘conspiracy theory’ umbrella are made out to be just that, crazy.

“I guess there are people who might be going further down the road and then someone lumps them altogether, but you know I don't think that makes sense”.

According to Reja Ganjavi there are conspiracies that are real and then there are conspiracies that are not real. He describes the false conspiracies as imaginary connections people make in their heads.

“It's rooted in human weakness which is like to think that everything is under control, that there is perfect order in the world, but the fact is that's not the case".

The Swedish Philosopher also relates this back to the coronavirus pandemic. He refers to the people spreading the ideas that COVID-19 is not a virus and that the pandemic is a hoax. For him, these are conspiracy theorists whose theories are completely unfounded.

Dave Johnson believes people are drawn to conspiracy theories when they “agree with whatever their personal experience happens to be, or whatever their personal life philosophy is”.

He uses the example of US Politics to explain the way people's beliefs tend to tie into where they stand politically.

“If this person is an anti-vaxxer they are very likely to be conservative because vaccinations are promoted by the government and we want everyone to be vaccinated, ‘well that sounds like socialism’ so that philosophy works for the right”.

In this sense, people are drawn to theories that support their side of politics, providing them with an either conscious or unconscious bias to agree or disagree with certain things.

Tanja Rebel feels that the mainstream media are making people like herself out to be conspiracy theorists because companies like the BBC have investments in 5G.

“There are lots of us who have the science backing behind us, who have very reasonable arguments and they refuse to listen to us, they just say oh it's conspiracy and that's it, very conveniently of course, so that is the dilemma we are in.”

Throughout researching the topic of 5G it can be difficult to differentiate between what is true or false information, when the internet is filled with both.

Professor of Epidemiology, David Savitz says we should determine what we believe online by how well-founded and non-biased the website appears to be.

“The source of the information is critical -- authoritative, neutral sources like the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences or the National Cancer Institute objectively review and summarise evidence whereas advocacy websites promote a point of view based on ideology”.

Dave Johnson spends a lot of his time researching and gathering information online and admits that knowing what is real or fake news can be a struggle. Even when something sounds like it is coming from a legitimate source, it may not be. For example, many of those in the anti-5G movement have quoted scientists as supporting their beliefs. Johnson explains that having scientists on your side does not automatically make your claims factual.

“Just because a scientist says something doesn't mean it's right.” Scientists have theories too, not all of their theories will translate into proven facts.

Rather, the journalist would advise people to focus more on how reliable the information is.

“The first thing that I would consider is what is the company that this information is keeping, and then from there you see if you can corroborate it, are there multiple sources that are saying the same thing and are there credible scientific institutions that are backing this up?”.

Philosopher and Activist, Reja Ganjavi agrees that it can be quite a task figuring out what is true and what is not online. In his opinion, this is down to the government withholding information so that we believe 5G is safe.

“The general population is not educated, not just that but they’re educated the wrong way, they’re educated to think that it’s actually safe”.

Theodora Scarato believes it is not possible for the average person to tell the difference between real and fake information online. In agreement with Reza Ganjavi, she points the blame for this at the industries that are rolling out 5G.

“It really is technically confusing and because of that it's very easy to say these half-truths and make it seem like they're safe, and industries are also doing something else, they are actively part of their creation of doubt”.

The creation of doubt is the concept Theodora Scarato believes industries are using to make people doubt that their technology is unsafe.

The idea that the mainstream media is promoting 5G because they will profit from it is a common belief amongst anit-5G activist groups. Dave Johnson has been directly accused of this.

“I've been accused multiple times of being paid off by ‘big 5G’ I guess, you know like big telecom or something. I'm not on anybody's payroll, I don't even have invested interest in it”.

On top of this, there appears to be a growing movement of people losing faith in scientists and experts in their fields.

The Tech Journalist describes this as something that terrifies him, particularly the way he’s witnessing it happening in the United States of America. He sees no good coming from people being increasingly polarised and political.

“I see the President of the United States openly mocking science, disparaging the scientists who work for him and coming up with half baked conspiracy theories about mask use, about medications that are like you-know, a snake oil miracle cure, and there are so many Americans that are on board with that, either because it comports with their personal life philosophy, their political goals or there's a religious angle in a lot of cases”.

In short, people are polarising due to politics and religion, something he would have thought could only happen in previous centuries, not in the present one.

“I see a lot of people also just kind of rejecting science and expert opinions because they’re rejecting authority, especially here in the US”.

In the UK, EE was the first network to introduce 5G, followed by Vodafone and then O2. Three major networks then launched 5G last year, others have followed including Sky Mobile and Three. Despite this, 5G is still not available nationwide and many devices are yet to support it. 5G technology is still in the process of being branched out fully.

According to the Office of Communications (OFcom), 5G will open up potential for new types of services.

When thinking about the future of this technology, people have different ideas of what this would look like.

Tanja Rebel believes the technology will only bring with it further invasions of our privacy.

“Companies are gonna make money out of these operations, they are going to be able to see everything”.

She believes that through Alexa, companies are already able to gather quite a lot of data on us. Through even more internet gadgets, Rebel thinks that they will be able to see pretty much everything about us. They will then go and sell this information to the company that bids the highest for it.

Tanja Rebel describes the future of 5G technology as us blindly walking into surveillance capitalism.

“We are sleepwalking into an automated brave new world where everything will be known. You will be able to be absent tracked, we are already doing it partially now, anywhere you go through facial recognition.”

For the ‘Stop 5G International’ Co-ordinator, being exposed to 5G radiation is an infringement of her human rights.

By contrast, Dave Johnson feels this is a highly exaggerated fearful view.

“5G’s going to enable you to have like, broadband speeds in your car, or wherever you happen to be. So I don't see how those dots get connected”.

He feels that a lot of people massively misunderstand what 5G’s purpose is actually for. The wireless network is more so for businesses and governments rather than for consumer technology.

Lisa Iscrupe is a writer for AllConnect, a service that helps people find Internet and TV providers in their area. She has a very similar perspective to Dave Johnson's.

"I think a lot of what it will open up for will be business needs versus the average person who just wants a faster cell phone signal".

5G is an enabler for the 'Internet of things'. This accounts for things like automation in factories and setting up super long battery life wireless cameras.

The wireless cameras play a big part in the argument that our privacy is being threatened by increasing surveillance.

In response Dave Johnson explains that the type of surveillance it will impact has also been misunderstood.

“We’re not really talking about surveillance cameras, we’re talking about traffic cameras, red light cameras, speed cameras and things like that. But also surveillance inside factories so that you can know where the jam is, that sort of thing”.

From a Professor of Bioengineering’s perspective, in the short run, 5G is simply a response to the significant increase in data transmission on the already existing phone networks which are "experiencing a straining capacity'" Everyone from old to young is now using the internet. This equates to a lot of data.

“In the long run, it will allow a huge number of devices to be connected to cell phone networks, so you can have your whole house networked and controlled via cell phone.”

Even further into the future, 5G is expected to bring us closer to the possibility of new applications. These include self-driving ships and cellphone connected surgery, through lower latency and faster transmissions of data.

Whether on the pro or against side of 5G’s roll-out, most people would agree that more credible studies on its health impacts wouldn’t be a bad thing. In the meantime, more companies are investing in the new technology, which means that anti-5G protests are unlikely to stop anytime soon.