The coronavirus pandemic, as with most major global events, has inspired a number of conspiracy theories that are in no way supported by scientific fact. Assuming COVID-19 isn’t the invention of Bill Gates, another fanciful theory asserts that 5G networks are in some way to blame. It’s natural to dismiss this type of tin foil thinking as mostly harmless, but things have now escalated to the point where three 5G masts in the UK have been attacked, with arson by conspiracy theorists named as the probable cause.

If you go on Twitter in the UK right now, you’ll see that #5GCoronavirus has been trending for the last couple of days and it certainly makes for interesting reading. A not insignificant number of people seem to be on board with the idea that 5G is at least somewhat to blame for the spread of coronavirus, with one theory suggesting it weakens the human immune system with its supposedly harmful radiation or. Even more bizarrely, some believe that viruses are able to communicate through radio waves, and thus the 5G network is assisting coronavirus in its spread. I want to write that you couldn’t make this stuff up, but apparently you can.

Several Facebook groups dedicated to these wild and unsubstantiated theories have also popped up, and it’s thought that these have encouraged three separate attacks on phone masts in the UK. Network equipment in Liverpool, Birmingham, and Belfast have been set on fire in recent days, with police investigators suspecting arson in each case. Considerable damage was caused at all three sites, but luckily nobody was hurt. In addition to the aforementioned social media groups, several Z-list celebrities (whose names I won’t publicize here) have been criticized for circulating the theories that have inspired these attacks.

Furthermore, telecoms engineers have reportedly been subjected to abuse by members of the public, regardless of whether what they’re doing has anything to do with 5G. The fact that these technicians are carrying out vital work to keep lines of communication open while the UK is in lockdown makes this all the more absurd. Independent fact-checking charity Full Fact is doing its best to educate the UK population on these spurious claims, and UK media regulators have warned outlets they will face sanctions if they aid in the spread of the baseless theories.

Facebook has removed many of the more aggressive groups responsible for spreading this type of misinformation, but judging by the substantial number of people I’ve seen on that platform and others who seem to truly believe that 5G is in some way to blame for the coronavirus pandemic, it looks as though this situation could get worse before it gets better.