Just because the calendar has flipped over to a New Year doesn’t mean 5G conspiracy theories have gone away. In India, social media is vilifying major carrier Reliance Jio, according to OneIndia, claiming birds are dying due to the company’s 5G trials.
The carrier could cite an American source for back up as confirmation of 5G avian safety has come in recent months from an unlikely party: The Audubon Society. The Society, in its own study, says it confirmed that 5G does not kill birds. “Radio wave emissions above 10 MHz from radio transmission antennas [including cell towers] are not known to harm birds,” says Joe Kirschvink, a biophysicist at the California Institute of Technology.
Kirschvink was involved in a study that found low-level magnetic radiation, such as AM radio waves, could interfere with migratory birds’ ability to orient themselves using the Earth’s magnetic field. Researchers found that birds could compensate for the disorientation, but proposed restricting the AM frequency band’s use.
Kirschvink anticipated that the findings might be misconstrued and issued a disclaimer regarding the study. “Modern-day charlatans will undoubtedly seize on this study as an argument for banning the use of mobile phones, despite the different frequency bands involved,” he wrote.
In spite of the warning, the “5G kills birds” theory began to proliferate online thanks to John Kuhles, who is behind several anti-5G conspiracy websites and social media pages. The misinformation started to spread in 2018 when Kuhles claimed in a Facebook post that a 5G antenna test caused a recent mass die-off of European Starlings in the Netherlands.
Just days after Kuhles’ post, an Indian movie called 2.0 (focusing on how technology ruins lives) hit theaters. The film depicts electromagnetic radiation from cell towers wiping out bird populations, fueling misinformation.
According to the National Audubon Society, misinformation campaigns related to 5G distract people from the many real and urgent threats facing birds and the environment.