While in Australia the COVID-19 outbreak is showing signs of slowing and lockdown measures are being eased, conspiracy theorists, acting in Australia and from overseas, have continued circulating misinformation on social media.
False posts on Facebook and Instagram during May repeated many of the concepts and stories seen and debunked in previous months.
Anti-5G telecommunications activists continued attempting to tie the pandemic to the next-generation communications technology despite previous claims being debunked and despite health officials and radiation authorities advising repeatedly that there is no evidence of adverse health effects from such technologies.
Many Australian Facebook users shared a viral post that originated in the UK, where a man in a mask and hard hat claimed to be a 5G technician and to have found a circuit board with “COV.19” on it. The board was identified by numerous sources as from an old pay-TV set-top box, the case of which was visible in the video.
Also from the UK and being shared in New Zealand was a video of someone claiming the Margate lighthouse and Turner Contemporary art gallery on Britain’s new 20 pound note were a 5G tower.
An Australian post claimed three phone towers outside a TAFE college in Sydney’s northwestern suburbs were newly installed while people were staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However a check on Google Street View showed the towers were there in images taken in 2009.
Claims about phone towers being put up during lockdown have been circulated - and debunked - in the past. In April AAP FactCheck examined a claim that a tower had been “put up overnight” in Victoria.
False or misleading claims that are not related to COVID-19 continue to circulate, such as a claim that toolmaking giant Stanley Black & Decker was ending its China production and building a new factory in Texas. Examination of this claim showed that while Stanley Black & Decker is building in Texas, the company is continuing to operate in China. The post, which surfaced as US-China tensions over the coronavirus increased, surfaced in the US before appearing in Australia shortly after.
Worldwide however, the wave of misinformation experienced during the pandemic has been labelled an “infodemic” by the head of the World Health Organization (WHO). The International Fact-Checking Network’s #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, of which AAP FactCheck is a member, has conducted more than 6,000 fact-checks since the start of the outbreak in a bid to slow the spread of false or dangerous claims.